coromandal


torture others
December 20, 2015, 3:54 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , ,

Francis Bacon

When your creed is cruel, you become cruel. Creeds include any form of fundamentalism that demands austerity, self denial etc.: market (today’s worst), religious, racial, sexual, etc.

When your creed is human you behave like a human. No pain, gain.

The ascetic depreciation of the pleasures of sense has not promoted kindliness or tolerance, or any of the other virtues that a non-superstitious outlook on human life would lead us to desire. On the contrary, when a man tortures himself he feels that it gives him a right to torture others, and inclines him to accept any system of dogma by which this right is fortified.

Bertrand Russell, Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind



wise or unwise
November 28, 2015, 12:44 am
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , ,

It’s not that the mob or the everymen who collectively make up a citizenry are right and wise, it’s that, by ensuring they decide by their vote who will lead and by what policy, the law will prevail and arbitrary measures will not.  It is the awkwardness of the process that protects us from the vagaries of concentrated power.

A democrat need not believe that the majority will always decide wisely; what he  must believe is that the decision of the majority, whether wise or unwise, must be accepted until such time as the majority decides otherwise. And this he believes not from any mystic conception of the wisdom of the plain man, but as the best practical device for putting the reign of law in place of the reign of arbitrary force.

Bertrand Russell, Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind, Unpopular Essays



gods like horses

People make gods in their own image. If animals had hands and liked to sculpt and paint, they would make gods with animal features. People have crossed over and made animal-like gods: Hanuman, Ganesha.

The Ethiopians made their gods black and snub-nosed; the Thracians say theirs have blue eyes and red hair: Yes, and if oxen and lions and horses had hands, and could paint with their hands, and produced works of art as men do, horses would paint the forms of gods like horses, and oxen like oxen, and make their bodies in the image of their several kinds.

Xenophanes



acquiescence

In case you wondered why: the complete cynicism, the lack of public ideals, the acquiescence, the inability to combat evils:

There is in America a subject called civics, in which, perhaps more than in any other, the teaching is expected to be misleading. The young are taught a sort of copybook account of how public affairs are supposed to be conducted, and are carefully shielded from all knowledge as to how in fact they are conducted. When they grow up and discover the truth, the result is too often a complete cynicism in which all public ideals are lost; whereas if they had been taught the truth carefully and with proper comment at an earlier age they might have become men able to combat evils in which, as it is, they acquiesce with a shrug.

The Functions of a Teacher, Umpopular Essays, Bertrand Russell



a vast panorama which enlarges the mind
November 25, 2013, 1:37 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , ,

Life can be a desperate, savage affair or it can be civilized. For it to be civilized, people need – by whatever means – to leave themselves behind and to understand – and I suppose even to love – this big old world. Some people who have been able to transcend themselves and understand aspects of the world have had massive civilizing effects on our lives. Teachers because they are brokers of knowledge are the agents of this civilizing and humanizing work. That’s what Bertrand Russell says in the following passage.

From Bertrand Russell:

. . . Civilization . . . is a thing of the mind, not of material adjuncts to the physical side of living. It is a matter partly of knowledge, partly of emotion. So far as knowledge is concerned, a man should be aware of the minuteness of himself and his immediate environment in relation to the world in time and space. He should see his own country not only as home, but as one among the countries of the world, all with an equal right to live and think and feel. He should see his own age in relation to the past and the future, and be aware that its own controversies will seem as strange to future ages as those of the past seem to us now. Taking an even wider view, he should be conscious of the vastness of geological epochs and astronomical abysses; but he should be aware of all this, not as a weight to crush the individual human spirit, but as a vast panorama which enlarges the mind that contemplates it. Continue reading



the dogmatism of the untraveled
July 29, 2013, 10:42 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , , ,

We tend to associate liberalism with big government and big society etc. and not with business.  Except of course for the idea of free markets and more broadly market liberalism, liberal is the word reserved for bleeding hearts.

Unless you believe in the invisible hand of the market, but that’s more magical than liberal.

Liberalism like any complex idea changes meaning over time, but also by how close or how far you are from it.  Here is a far away view which reverses some of our here and now ideas about liberalism.

At its best, market liberalism manifests forms of pluralism that throw together very different kinds of people, and burnish away the rough edges of intractability that would otherwise keep them apart – or at each others’ throats. From Bertrand Russell:

What may be called, in a broad sense, the Liberal theory of politics is a recurrent product of commerce.  The first known example of it was in the Ionian cities of Asia Minor, which lived by trading with Egypt and Lydia.  When Athens, in the time of Pericles, became commercial, the Athenians became Liberal.  After a long eclipse, Liberal ideas revived in the Lombard cities of the middle ages, and prevailed in Italy until they were extinguished by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century.  But the Spaniards failed to reconquer Holland or to subdue England, and it was these countries that were the champions of Liberalism and the leaders in commerce in the seventeenth century.  In our day the leadership has passed to the United States.

The reasons for the connection of commerce with Liberalism are obvious.  Trade brings men into contact with tribal customs different from their own, and in so doing destroys the dogmatism of the untraveled.  The relation of buyer and seller is one of negotiation between two parties who are both free; it is most profitable when the buyer or seller is able to understand the point of view of the other party.

Bertrand Russell



caution and love
May 29, 2013, 10:59 pm
Filed under: the sweet life, unseen world | Tags: , ,

thCAKASWLTOf all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.

Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness