Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Life of human invention

"Laws of nature are human inventions, like ghosts. Laws of logic, of mathematics are also human inventions, like ghosts. The whole blessed thing is a human invention, including the idea that it isn't a human invention. The world has no existence whatsoever outside the human imagination. It's all a ghost, and in antiquity was so recognized as a ghost, the whole blessed world we live in. It's run by ghosts. We see what we see because these ghosts show it to us, ghosts of Moses and Christ and the Buddha, and Plato, and Descartes, and Rousseau and Jefferson and Lincoln, on and on and on. Isaac Newton is a very good ghost. One of the best. Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past. Ghost and more ghost. Ghosts trying to find their place among the living." [Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance]

Monday, November 19, 2007

Learning from the Past?

"While it is true that certain historical examples of goodness may be brought to bear for the moral education of children and the elevation of their minds in order to impress them with what is morally admirable, it is also true that the destinies of nations and states--with their interests, situations, and complexities--are a different field of knowledge. Rulers, statesmen, and nations are told that they ought to learn from the experience of history. Yet what experience and history teaches us is this, that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, nor acted in accordance with the lessons to be derived from it. Each era has such particular circumstances, such individual situations, that decisions can only be made from within the era itself. In the press of world events, there is no help to be had from general principles, nor from the memory of similar conditions in former times--for a pale memory has no force against the vitality and freedom of the present." [GWF Hegel, Introduction to the Philosophy of History, Pg. 7-8]

Friday, November 9, 2007

Deviation from our Instincts

"Every animate creature stands in a specific relation to the external world in which it lives. From the meanest zoophyte, up to the most highly organised of the vertebrata, one and all have certain fixed principles of existence. Each has its varied bodily wants to be satisfied - food to be provided for its proper nourishment - a habitation to be constructed for shelter from the cold, or for defence against enemies - now arrangements to be made for bringing up a brood of young, nests to be built, little ones to be fed and fostered - then a store of provisions to be laid in against winter, and so on, with a variety of other natural desires to be gratified. For the performance of all these operations, every creature has its appropriate organs and instincts - external apparatus and internal faculties; and the health and happiness of each being, are bound up with the perfection and activity of these powers. They, in their turn, are dependent upon the position in which the creature is placed. Surround it with circumstances which preclude the necessity or any one of its faculties, and that faculty will become gradually impaired. Nature provides nothing in vain. Instincts and organs are only preserved so long as they are required. Place a tribe of animals in a situation where one of their attributes is unnecessary - take away its natural exercies - diminish its activity, and you will gradually destroy its power. Successive enerations will see the faculty, or instinct, or whatever it may be, become gradually weaker, and an ultimate deneracy of the race will inevitably ensue." [Herbert Spencer, The Proper Sphere of Government, pg.49]