Mill was searching for a reliable source of joy, one that could survive the unbearable goodness of the world he sought to achieve. He was looking for a happiness that could stave off incursions of dissatisfaction or boredom once the ultimate battle is won, and (at last!) tranquility reigns. The answer, he discovered through reading Wordsworth, is to take refuge in a capacity to be moved by beauty — a capacity to take joy in the quiet contemplation of delicate thoughts, sights, sounds, and feelings, not just titanic struggles.
Pessoa’s scepticism is not greatly different in its view of the limits of human reason from the sceptical philosophy developed in the ancient world by Pyrrho and Sextus Empiricus, versions of which have been revived in modern times not only by Montaigne but also by David Hume.
Where Pessoa differs from most exponents of systematic doubt is in his intent, which was not to prove the validity of scepticism or even – like Hume, in some moods – to encourage people to give up philosophising and return to everyday life. If Pessoa’s philosophical writings had any overall purpose, it was simply to emancipate the mind and enlarge the imagination. The human value of philosophy was not in underwriting any view of things but in making possible a certain kind of mental freedom.
Source: John Gray, Reviewed: Philosophical Essays – a Critical Edition by Fernando Pessoa
For Spinoza, whose ultimate goal was to discover how human beings can be happy, our goal should be to replace our “inadequate ideas” (partial, incorrect, emotionally loaded and distorted understandings) with “adequate ideas” (understandings which are accurate and take in the full causal complexity of the situation as much as possible). This complex understanding not only includes a grasp of all the relevant scientific facts but most importantly views all activities and events as unfolding relentlessly from the laws of Reality as the predetermined unfolding of the totality and logic of Gods being.
Spinoza argued that viewing things this way leads to two consequences. The first is peace. When we understand that things could not have been other than they are and are not the fault of either ourselves or our “enemies” or anyone else, we are freed from guilt, blame, anger, bitterness and a host of other draining and destructive emotions. What happens is coterminous with the realm of the possible- what happens is exactly what could possibly have happened. Reality is the possible. Or to put it more technically, the borders of reality are coterminous with the borders of the possible; what did not happen by definition could not have happened.
The second is that our shift moves from our emotional reactions toward understanding- if we want to change things, we need to increase the accuracy and complexity of our causal analysis, not merely rage against people, political parties, or anything else. Understanding the causality involved can empower us to effect real change when possible, as opposed to relegating us to a soap box or privately gnashing our teeth in the dark.
Source: Matthew Gindin, Spinoza Is Still Relevant – The Forward
Haidt is surely right the most endangered species of diversity on campus these days is political diversity. To which I would add: genuine moral and religious diversity. He’s also probably right that things will get worse before they get better.
So why is Haidt the best or most realistic of the evolutionary psychologists? His undergraduate major was philosophy! Take that, Senator Rubio!
Or maybe it is: in the last few years, several scientists and philosophers, Chalmers and Koch among them, have begun to look seriously again at a viewpoint so bizarre that it has been neglected for more than a century, except among followers of eastern spiritual traditions, or in the kookier corners of the new age. This is “panpsychism”, the dizzying notion that everything in the universe might be conscious, or at least potentially conscious, or conscious when put into certain configurations. Koch concedes that this sounds ridiculous: when he mentions panpsychism, he has written, “I often encounter blank stares of incomprehension.” But when it comes to grappling with the Hard Problem, crazy-sounding theories are an occupational hazard. Besides, panpsychism might help unravel an enigma that has attached to the study of consciousness from the start: if humans have it, and apes have it, and dogs and pigs probably have it, and maybe birds, too – well, where does it stop?
But I think the key difference between science and philosophy is that we need the results of science more than we need everyone in the body politic “doing science.” By contrast, we need everyone “doing philosophy” more than we need the results of philosophy. In other words, we don’t need to know or understand how the scientist has gone from the minute molecular intricacies of DNA to a public good like genetic counseling. On the other hand, the emulation of the critical thinking and logical argument of a philosopher is a virtue that can be applied to any area of life — from where you stand on the most important social and political issues of the day to how best to spend the rest of your days on this planet.
Steve Neumann, Free the Philosophical Beast – NYTimes.com.
Only by exhibiting actions in harmony with the sound words which he has received will anyone be helped by philosophy. — Musonius Rufus
It is a work of philosophy; and it is entirely typical of the scientistic tyranny in American intellectual life that scientists have been invited to do the work of philosophers. The problem of the limits of science is not a scientific problem. It is also pertinent to note that the history of science is a history of mistakes, and so the dogmatism of scientists is especially rich. — Leon Weseltier
Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of our language.
— Ludwig Wittgenstein