The Sick Soul – Anhedonia

Conceive yourself, if possible, suddenly stripped of all the emotion with which your world now inspires you, and try to imagine it as it exists, purely by itself, without your favorable or unfavorable, hopeful or apprehensive comment. It will be almost impossible for you to realize such a condition of negativity and deadness. No one portion of the universe would then have importance beyond another; and the whole collection of its things and series of its events would be without significance, character, expression, or perspective.

In Tolstoy’s case the sense that life had any meaning whatever was for a time wholly withdrawn. The result was a transformation in the whole expression of reality. When we come to study the phenomenon of conversion or religious regeneration, we shall see that a not infrequent consequence of the change operated in the subject is a transfiguration of the face of nature in his eyes. A new heaven seems to shine upon a new earth. In melancholiacs there is usually a similar change, only it is in the reverse direction. The world now looks remote, strange, sinister, uncanny. Its color is gone, its breath is cold, there is no speculation in the eyes it glares with. “It is as if I lived in another century,” says one asylum patient.—”I see everything through a cloud,” says another, “things are not as they were, and I am changed.”—”I see,” says a third, “I touch, but the things do not come near me, a thick veil alters the hue and look of everything.”—”Persons move like shadows, and sounds seem to come from a distant world.”—”There is no longer any past for me; people appear so strange; it is as if I could not see any reality, as if I were in a theatre; as if people were actors, and everything were scenery; I can no longer find myself; I walk, but why? Everything floats before my eyes, but leaves no impression.”—”I weep false tears, I have unreal hands: the things I see are not real things.”—Such are expressions that naturally rise to the lips of melancholy subjects describing their changed state.

The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James, via wikisource 

Essential Heresies : Manicheanism

Now, Manicheans are not exactly a heresy, but they appear in the Confessions, and they’re very important. So since we’re doing doctrinal ideas, Manicheanism is a teaching about good and evil that can be applied to other religions besides Christianity. Manicheanism basically says that good and evil have a real existence. There is a war in the universe between a good god and an evil one. And this may be applied outside of Christianity or within Christianity.

And within Christianity, the evil god is the devil, or according to the Manicheans of this period that Augustine for a while joined, the god of the Old Testament. Jehovah is the evil god, and the god of the New Testament, the Christian god, is the good one. Jehovah is the one who smites a lot of people. Jehovah is the creator god, because the Manicheans believed that matter is evil and is the source of evil. Spirit is good. The Christian god created spirit. Human beings are imprisoned in the body, and they have to figure out a way to liberate themselves from the dominion of the evil god. Vegetarianism, for a start, avoiding flesh.

But salvation means casting off the flesh. How is this different from Christianity? And doesn’t this sound to you like regular old Christianity, mistrust of the flesh? The devil is identified with sexual desire or physicality, generally. Manicheanism is very useful as an explanation of evil. And this may not be something that keeps you up at night, but it will at some point, intermittently.

Yale Open U – The Early Middle Ages, 284–1000, HIST 210 – Lecture 4 – The Christian Roman Empire, Paul Freedman

The Gospel of relaxation

There is, accordingly, no better known or more generally useful precept in the moral training of youth, or in one’s personal self-discipline, than that which bids us pay primary attention to what we do and express, and not to care too much for what we feel. If we only check a cowardly impulse in time, for example, or if we only don’t strike the blow or rip out with the complaining or insulting word that we shall regret as long as we live, our feelings themselves will presently be the calmer and better, with no particular guidance from us on their own account. Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.

Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our spontaneous cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully, to look round cheerfully, and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there. If such conduct does not make you soon feel cheerful, nothing else on that occasion can. So to feel brave, act as if we were brave, use all our will to that end, and a courage-fit will very likely replace the fit of fear. Again, in order to feel kindly toward a person to whom we have been inimical, the only way is more or less deliberately to smile, to make sympathetic inquiries, and to force ourselves to say genial things. One hearty laugh together will bring enemies into a closer communion of heart than hours spent on both sides in inward wrestling with the mental demon of uncharitable feeling. To wrestle with a bad feeling only pins our attention on it, and keeps it still fastened in the mind: whereas, if we act as if from some better feeling, the old bad feeling soon folds its tent like an Arab, and silently steals away.

The best manuals of religious devotion accordingly reiterate the maxim that we must let our feelings go, and pay no regard to them whatever. In an admirable and widely successful little book called ‘The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life,’ by Mrs. Hannah Whitall Smith, I find this lesson on almost every page. Act faithfully, and you really have faith, no matter how cold and even how dubious you may feel. “It is your purpose God looks at,” writes Mrs. Smith, “not your feelings about that purpose; and your purpose, or will, is therefore the only thing you need attend to. . . . Let your emotions come or let them go, just as God pleases, and make no account of them either way. . . . They really have nothing to do with the matter. They are not the indicators of your spiritual state, but are merely the indicators of your temperament or of your present physical condition.”

The Gospel of Relaxation, William James

Rhizome

Rhizome is a philosophical concept developed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in their Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1972–1980) project. It is what Deleuze calls an “image of thought,” based on the botanical rhizome, that apprehends multiplicities.

wikipedia

There is no clean slate. No pure beginning. We never begin from nothing to form something. We always begin somewhere. There is no outside the fray of it all, no place free of culture, of personal experience, of history, of ourselves. We’re always somewhere doing something as this, whatever this is.

http://hilariousbookbinder.blogspot.com/2017/10/beginning-from-middle-with-reference-to.html

Good explanation here:

William James on Expectation

The permanent presence of the sense of futurity in the mind has been strangely ignored by most writers, but the fact is that our consciousness at a given moment is never free from the ingredient of expectancy. Every one knows how when a painful thing has to be undergone in the near future, the vague feeling that it is impending penetrates all our thought with uneasiness and subtly vitiates our mood even when it does not control our attention; it keeps us from being at rest, at home in the given present. The same is true when a great happiness awaits us. But when the future is neutral and perfectly certain, ‘we do not mind it,’ as we say, but give an undisturbed attention to the actual. Let now this haunting sense of futurity be thrown off its bearings or left without an object, and immediately uneasiness takes possession of the mind. But in every novel or unclassified experience this is just what occurs; we do not know what will come next ; and novelty per se becomes a mental irritant, while custom per se is a mental sedative, merely because the one baffles while the other settles our expectations.

Every reader must feel the truth of this. What is meant by coming ‘to feel at home’ in a new place, or with new people? It is simply that, at first, when we take up our quarters in a new room, we do not know what draughts may blow in upon our back, what doors may open, what forms may enter, what interesting objects may be found in cupboards and corners. When after a few days we have learned the range of all these possibilities, the feeling of strangeness disappears. And so it does with people, when we have got past the point of expecting any essentially new manifestations from their character.

THE SENTIMENT OF RATIONALITY, William James
wikisource

Fictionalism

Fictionalism is the view in philosophy according to which statements that appear to be descriptions of the world should not be construed as such, but should instead be understood as cases of “make believe”, of pretending to treat something as literally true (a “useful fiction”). Two important strands of fictionalism are modal fictionalism developed by Gideon Rosen, which states that possible worlds, regardless of whether they exist or not, may be a part of a useful discourse, and mathematical fictionalism advocated by Hartry Field, which states that talk of numbers and other mathematical objects is nothing more than a convenience for doing science. Also in meta-ethics, there is an equivalent position called moral fictionalism (championed by Richard Joyce). Many modern versions of fictionalism are influenced by the work of Kendall Walton in aesthetics.

Fictionalism consists in at least the following three theses:

  1. Claims made within the domain of discourse are taken to be truth-apt; that is, true or false
  2. The domain of discourse is to be interpreted at face value—not reduced to meaning something else
  3. The aim of discourse in any given domain is not truth, but some other virtue(s) (e.g., simplicity, explanatory scope).

Wikipedia

Diogenes, also known as Diogenes the Cynic

800px-Waterhouse-Diogenes

Diogenes (1882)
by John William Waterhouse

Diogenes made a virtue of poverty. He begged for a living and often slept in a large ceramic jar in the marketplace. He became notorious for his philosophical stunts, such as carrying a lamp during the day, claiming to be looking for an honest man. He criticized Plato, disputed his interpretation of Socrates, and sabotaged his lectures, sometimes distracting listeners by bringing food and eating during the discussions. Diogenes was also noted for having mocked Alexander the Great, both in public and to his face when he visited Corinth in 336.

wikipedia

Dream of the butterfly

One night, Zhuangzi dreamed of being a butterfly — a happy butterfly, showing off and doing things as he pleased, unaware of being Zhuangzi. Suddenly he awoke, drowsily, Zhuangzi again. And he could not tell whether it was Zhuangzi who had dreamt the butterfly or the butterfly dreaming Zhuangzi. But there must be some difference between them! This is called ‘the transformation of things’.

via wikiquote

Pessimistic Meta Induction Theory

DUBNER: Right now, we’re talking in the year 2017. A lot of people now are convinced that the U.S. government and many others erred terribly in declaring fat to be the cause of obesity. Many people now believe, as you argue, that sugar is a much bigger villain. How do we know you’re not the guy that’s wrong this time, that you’re not just another — perhaps well-intentioned — big-brained do-gooder who is making a massive mistake?

LUSTIG: An awfully good question. This is known as the pessimistic meta-induction theory. What it says is, “Everything we knew 10 years ago is already wrong, and everything we know today will be wrong 10 years from now. Why should we do anything differently when we know that whatever it is that we believe today will end up being wrong?” If you play that game, then you might as well never do any research, never do anything at all, and live with the current dogma.

– FREAKONOMICS podcast – There’s a War on Sugar. Is It Justified?

Pessimistic induction @ wikipedia

Most practical thing – Chesterton quote

In the preface to that admirable collection of essays of his called ‘Heretics,’ Mr. Chesterton writes these words: “There are some people–and I am one of them–who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy. We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether, in the long run, anything else affects them.”

I think with Mr. Chesterton in this matter. I know that you, ladies and gentlemen, have a philosophy, each and all of you, and that the most interesting and important thing about you is the way in which it determines the perspective in your several worlds. You know the same of me.

Pragmatism, A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking – William James

Spinoza and William James on freedom

Spinoza long ago wrote in his ethics that anything that a man can avoid under the notion that it is bad he may also avoid under the notion that something else is good. He who habitually acts sub specie mali, under the negative notion, the notion of the bad, is called a slave by Spinoza. To him who acts habitually under the notion of good he gives the name of freeman. See to it now, I beg you, that you make freemen of your pupils by habituating them to act, whenever possible, under the notion of a good. Get them habitually to tell the truth, not so much through showing them the wickedness of lying as by arousing their enthusiasm for honor and veracity.

Talks to Teachers, William James
via Project Gutenberg
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/16287

PROP. LXVII. A free man thinks of death least of all things; and his wisdom is a meditation not of death but of life.

Proof.–A free man is one who lives under the guidance of reason, who is not led by fear (IV. lxiii.), but who directly desires that which is good (IV. lxiii. Coroll.), in other words (IV. xxiv.), who strives to act, to live, and to preserve his being on the basis of seeking his own true advantage; wherefore such an one thinks of nothing less than of death, but his wisdom is a meditation of life. Q.E.D.

Ethics, Benedictus de Spinoza
via Project Gutenberg
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3800

Self inflicted gaslighting – Bad Habit or Mental Exercise?

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Mindfucks and self-inflicted gaslighting. Or the hypnotic or mesmerising. Vivid colors, intense patterns. Mind-blowing science and philosophy. Chill or trippy music. Surrealism, absurdism and strangeness.


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The Hermeneutic Circle

The hermeneutic circle,” he was saying. “That’s what Dilthey called it. You don’t know what to do with the details unless you have a grip on the structure, and at the same time, you don’t know what to do with the structure unless you know the details. It’s true in life and in literature. The hermeneutic circle. It’s a vicious circle.”

David Denby quoting Columbia professor in the essay Does Homer Have Legs?

Moral Rules and Exceptions


Dealing With The Exception

The exception is perhaps the greatest obstacle for any moral theory to deal with. You adopt a supposedly ideal moral system which should tell you what to do to act morally in any possible case: all you have to do is deduce the proper action from your principle or set of principles, then follow it. No problem. You’ll be doing the right thing, and acting without sin. But then you run into that odd, unexpected situation where following your rulebook doesn’t seem so neat and tidy. This new case is special, unique, and unanticipated by your ethical system. In fact, it just feels wrong to follow the rules here in this instance. Do you go with your rulebook, or your current intuition?

There are many who would step in and try to defend principled (rulebook style) ethics. They have three obvious defenses:
(1) Simply deny that apparent problems create exceptions.
(2) Hold the view that principles can be rewritten so that the apparent exceptions are no longer exceptions.
(3) Argue that each apparent exceptional case is really a case of conflicting principles, where two or more principles both apply, but one is overruled by another of greater priority.

Why You Shouldn’t Be A Person Of Principle,
Ramsey McNabb, Philosophy Now

Schopenhauer – Desultory Quotes

If you want to know how you feel about someone take note of the impression an unexpected letter from him makes on you when you first see it on the doormat.

Every parting is a foretaste of death, and every reunion a foretaste of resurrection.

After your death, you will be what you were before your birth.

Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.

The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.

The first rule of style is have something to say.

Money is human happiness in the abstract; and so the man who is no longer capable of enjoying such happiness in the concrete, sets his whole heart on money.

We seldom think of what we have, but always of what we lack.

Life and dreams are leaves of one and the same book. The systematic reading is real life, but when the actual reading hour (the day) has come to an end, and we have the period of recreation, we often continue idly to thumb over the leaves, and turn to a page here and there without method or connection. We sometimes turn up a page we have already read, at others one still unknown to us, but always from the same book.