The Philosophy of an Epoch, Unknown Assumptions – Alfred Whitehead Quote

“When you are criticizing the philosophy of an epoch, do not chiefly direct your attention to those intellectual positions which its exponents feel it necessary explicitly to defend. There will be some fundamental assumptions which adherents to all the variant systems within the epoch unconsciously presuppose. Such assumptions appear so obvious that people do not know what they are assuming because no other way of putting things has ever occurred to them. With these assumptions a certain limited number of types of philosophic systems are possible, and this group of systems constitutes the philosophy of the epoch.”

Alfred Whitehead, Science and the Modern
Open Library

Hypothetical example – Everything is about Growth. The assumption that growing the GDP is a universal imperative, or that it’s an inherent good. 

“We seek knowledge only because we desire enjoyment, and it is impossible to conceive why a person who has neither desires nor fears would take the trouble to reason.” Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality

Epigraph to, Great Books, by David Denby

At the age of forty-eight, writer and film critic David Denby returned to Columbia University and re-enrolled in two core courses in Western civilization to confront the literary and philosophical masterpieces — the “great books” — that are now at the heart of the culture wars. In Great Books, he leads us on a glorious tour, a rediscovery and celebration of such authors as Homer and Boccaccio, Locke and Nietzsche. Conrad and Woolf. The resulting personal odyssey is an engaging blend of self-discovery, cultural commentary, reporting, criticism, and autobiography — an inspiration for anyone in love with the written word.

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Building, quotes on

We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.
Winston Churchill

We require from buildings, as from men, two kinds of goodness: first, the doing their practical duty well: then that they be graceful and pleasing in doing it; which last is itself another form of duty.
John Ruskin

To be a man is to be responsible: to be ashamed of miseries you did not cause; to be proud of your comrades’ victories; to be aware, when setting one stone, that you are building a world.
Antoine de Saint Exupéry

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. . . we would assume that what it was we meant would have been listed in some book set down beyond the sky’s far reaches, if at all there was a purpose here. But now I think the purpose lives in us and that we fall into an error if we do not keep our own true notebook of the way we came, how the sleet stung, or how a wandering bird cried at the window. . . – LOREN EISELEY

Epigraph from True Notebooks: A Writer’s Year at Juvenile Hall, Mark Salzman

Thoughts and How You Feel

In fact, your thoughts often have much more to do with how you feel than what is actually happening in your life.

This isn’t a new idea. Nearly two thousand years ago the Greek philosopher, Epictetus, stated that people are disturbed “not by things, but by the views we take of them.” In the Book of Proverbs (23: 7) in the Old Testament you can find this passage: “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” And even Shakespeare expressed a similar idea when he said: “for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” (Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2).

Burns M.D., David D.. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy 

Patience in Expectancy

Every human being is tried this way in the active service of expectancy. Now comes the fulfillment and relieves him, but soon he is again placed on reconnaissance for expectancy; then he is again relieved, but as long as there is any future for him, he has not yet finished his service. And while human life goes on this way in very diverse expectancy, expecting very different things according to different times and occasions and in different frames of mind, all life is again one nightwatch of expectancy.

Søren Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses: “Patience in Expectancy”
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related post, William James on Expectation

In Praise of Self Pity

The tears shed by the audience at a Victorian melodrama come under the heading of a good cry. They might be called the poor man’s catharsis, and as such have a better claim to be the main objective of popular melodrama than its notorious moral pretensions. Besides referring to superficial emotion, the phrase “having a good cry” implies feeling sorry for oneself. The pity is self-pity. But, for all its notorious demerits, self-pity has its uses. E. M. Forster even says it is the only thing that makes bearable the feeling of growing old—in other words, that it is a weapon in the struggle for existence. Self-pity is a very present help in time of trouble, and all times are times of trouble.

Once we have seen that our modern antagonism to self-pity and sentiment goes far beyond the rational objections that may be found to them, we realize that even the natural objections are in some measure mere rationalization. Attacks on false emotion often mask a fear of emotion as such. Ours is, after all, a thin-lipped, thin-blooded culture. Consider how, in the past half-century, the prestige of dry irony has risen, while that of surging emotion has fallen. This is a cultural climate in which a minor writer like Jules Laforgue can rate higher than a major one like Victor Hugo. Or think of our changed attitude to death. Would any age but this receive the death of admired persons “with quiet understatement”? We may think that Mr. Auden pours his heart out in his good poem on the death of Yeats, but just compare Mr. Auden’s poem with the product of more old-fashioned culture, say, with Garcia Lorca’s “Lament for the Death of Ignacio Mejias”! Would even Lorca’s title be possible in English? Is lamenting something we can imagine ourselves doing? On the contrary we modernize the Greek tragedies by deleting all variants of “woe is me.” If Christ and Alexander the Great came back to life, we would teach them to restrain their tears.

Once I did see death done justice to. An Italian actor came on stage to announce the death of a colleague. He did indeed lament. He shook, he wept, he produced streams of passionate rhetoric, until the audience shook, and wept, and lamented with him. Now that is self-pity, certainly. One is not sorry for a corpse; one is sorry for oneself, deprived; and in the background is the fear of one’s own death. But so much the better for self-pity. The experience was had, not refused.

The Life of the Drama, Eric Bentley
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Dumb and Dumber quote

Lloyd Christmas: [addressing Mary] I’m crazy about you. I’ve never felt this way about anybody.

Lloyd Christmas: [laughs nervously] Listen to me! I feel like a schoolboy again. A schoolboy who desperately wants to make sweet, sweet love to you.

Mary Swanson: [Mary comes into the room, making it clear to viewers that Lloyd’s previous words were just a rehearsal] I thought I heard you talking to someone.

Lloyd Christmas: [now extremely nervous] Mary… I… I desperately want to make love to a schoolboy.

check out more at IMDB

Through a glass, darkly

1 Corinthians 13:12

King James Bible
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

New American Standard Bible
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

Aes Triplex, Robert Louis Stevenson

As courage and intelligence are the two qualities best worth a good man’s cultivation, so it is the first part of intelligence to recognise our precarious estate in life, and the first part of courage to be not at all abashed before the fact. A frank and somewhat headlong carriage, not looking too anxiously before, not dallying in maudlin regret over the past, stamps the man who is well armoured for this world.

And not only well armoured for himself, but a good friend and a good citizen to boot. We do not go to cowards for tender dealing; there is nothing so cruel as panic; the man who has least fear for his own carcass, has most time to consider others.

Excerpt from the essay, Aes Triplex, by Robert Louis Stevenson. Check out the whole thing at Project Gutenberg