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March 31, 2008

ibn sina's quest for the truth

Whenever I found myself perplex by a problem, or could not find the middle term in any syllogism, I would repair to the mosque and pray, adoring the All-Creator, until my puzzle was resolved and my difficulty made easy. At night I would return home, set the lamp before me, and busy myself with reading and writing; whenever sleep overcame me or I was conscious of some weakness, I turned aside to drink a glass of wine until my strength returned to me; then I went back to my reading. If ever the least slumber overtook me, I would dream of the precise problem which I was considering as I fell asleep; in that way many problems revealed themselves to me while sleeping.

Ibn Sina - Autobiography

Posted by amin at 8:58 PM

March 30, 2008

faith is the strength of life

Whatever the faith may be, and whatever answers it may give, and to whomsoever it gives them, every such answer gives to the finite existence of man an infinite meaning, a meaning not destroyed by sufferings, deprivations, or death. This means that only in faith can we find for life a meaning and a possibility. What, then, is this faith? And I understood that faith is not merely "the evidence of things not seen", etc., and is not a revelation (that defines only one of the indications of faith, is not the relation of man to God one has first to define faith and then God, and not define faith through God); it not only agreement with what has been told one (as faith is most usually supposed to be), but faith is a knowledge of the meaning of human life in consequence of which man does not destroy himself but lives. Faith is the strength of life. If a man lives he believes in something. If he did not believe that one must live for something, he would not live. If he does not see and recognize the illusory nature of the finite, he believes in the finite; if he understands the illusory nature of the finite, he must believe in the infinite. Without faith he cannot live.

Tolstoy - A Confession

Posted by amin at 11:59 PM

March 29, 2008

he could not forgive, simply because he - forgot

To be unable to take his enemies, his misfortunes, and even his misdeeds seriously for long - that is the sign of strong, rounded natures with a superabundance of a power which is flexible, formative, healing and can make one forget (a good example from the modern world is Mirabeau, who had no recall of the insults and slights directed at him and who could not forgive, simply because he - forgot.) A man like this shakes from him, with one shrug, many worms which would have burrowed into another man; actual 'love for your enemies' is also possible here and here alone - assuming it is possible at all on earth.

Nietzsche - On the Genealogy of Morality

Posted by amin at 6:24 PM

plato's metaphysics

There is a mystical element at the core of Plato’s metaphysics. I call it “mystical” because no fully rational explanation can be given of the implosion set off in the philosopher’s soul by the vision of Form which makes a new man out of him…The chief end of man is to glorify Form and enjoy it forever. If you are a Platonic philosopher, you have found the meaning of your life, your true vocation, in faithful service to the Forms of Justice, Beauty, Goodness, and the rest. You are possessed by a transcendent love beside which earthly passions pale. You have discovered bliss which turns the prizes of this world into trash.

Gregory Vlastos - Socrates, Plato, and Their Tradition

Posted by amin at 6:13 PM

the hand of western civilization

Our civilization is still split between a Hellenic cognition and aesthetic and a Hebraic morality and religion. One might say that the hand of Western (indeed of much Eastern also) civilization has five ill-assorted fingers: Moses, Socrates, Jesus, Shakespeare, Freud. Plato’s culture is entirely Socratic, by design, yet also Homeric, unwillingly. Between the Republic and ourselves come Moses, Jesus, Shakespeare, Freud, and though we cannot abandon Athens, still less could we avoid our tongues’ cleaving to the roofs of our mouths if we do not prefer Jerusalem to Athens.

Harold Bloom - Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?

Posted by amin at 6:10 PM

death alone shows the littleness of man

For Job could not better prove his patience than by resolving to be entirely naked, inasmuch as the good pleasure of god was such. Surely, men resist in vain; they may grit their teeth, but they must return entirely naked to the grave. Even the pagans have said that death alone shows the littleness of man. Why? For we have a gulf of covetousness, that we would wish to gobble up all the earth; if a man has many riches, vines, meadows, and possessions, it is not enough; God would have to create new worlds, if He wished to satisfy us.

John Calvin

Posted by amin at 6:08 PM

more assiduity, more wisdom

He used to say:-More flesh, more worms; more wealth, more care; more women, more witchcraft; more maidservants, more lewdness; more menservants, more thieving; more Torah, more life; more assiduity, more wisdom; more counsel, more understanding; more charity, more peace; he who has acquired a good name acquired it for himself. He who has acquired words of Torah has acquired for himself the life of the world to come.

Pirke Aboth

Posted by amin at 6:05 PM

March 22, 2008

immortal mozart!

Immortal Mozart! You, to whom I owe everything, to whom I owe the loss of my reason, the wonder that overwhelmed my soul, the fear that gripped my inmost being; you, who are the reason I did not go through life without there being something that could make me tremble; you, whom I thank for the fact that I shall not have died without having loved, even though my love was unhappy.

Soren Kierkegaard - Either/Or

Posted by amin at 12:09 PM

March 19, 2008


It has been found again! What? Eternity. It is the sea mingled with the sun.
My immortal soul, keep your vow despite the lonely night and the day on fire.
Thus you detach yourself from human approval, from common impulses! You fly off as you may…

-No hope, never; and no orietur. Knowledge and fortitude, torture is certain.
No more tomorrow, satiny embers, your own heart is the [only] duty.
It has been found again! – What? – Eternity. It is the sea mingled with the sun.

Rimbaud - Faim

Posted by amin at 12:49 AM

March 18, 2008


Respect serves to distinguish the great.


Posted by amin at 12:21 AM

March 13, 2008

the kreutzer sonata

People say that music has an uplifting effect on the soul: what rot! It isn’t true. It’s true that it has an effect, it has a terrible effect on me, at any rate, but it has nothing to do with any uplifting of the soul. Its effect on the soul is neither uplifting nor degrading – it merely irritates me. How can I put it? Music makes me forget myself, my true condition, it carries me off into another state of being, one that isn’t my own: under the influence of music I have the illusion of feeling things I don’t really feel, of understanding things I don’t understand, being able to do things I’m not able to do. I explain this by the circumstance that the effect produced by music is similar to that produced by yawning or laughter: I may not be sleepy, but I yawn if I see someone else yawning; I may have no reason for laughing, but I laugh if I see someone else laughing.

Music carries me instantly and directly into the state of consciousness that was experienced by its composer. My soul merges with his, and together with him I’m transport from one state of consciousness into another; yet why this should be, I’ve no idea. I mean, take the man who wrote the “Kreutzer Sonata”, Beethoven: he knew why he was in that state of mind. It was the state of mind which led him to perform certain actions, and so it acquired a special significance for him, but none whatever for me. And that’s why that kind of music’s just an irritant – because it doesn’t lead anywhere. A military band plays a march, say: the soldiers march in step, and the music’s done its work. An orchestra plays a dance tune, I dance, and the music’s done its work. A Mass is sung, I take communion, and once again the music’s done its work. But that other kind of music’s just an irritation, and excitement, and the action the excitement’s supposed to lead to simply isn’t there! That’s why it’s such a fearful thing, why it sometimes has such a horrible effect. In china, music’s an affair of state. And that’s the way it ought to be. Can it really be allowable for anyone who feels like it to hypnotize another person, or many other persons, and then do what he likes with them? Particularly if the hypnotist is just the first unscrupulous individual who happens to come along?

Yet this fearful medium is available to anyone who cares to make use of it. Take that “Kreutzer Sonata”, for example, take its first movement, the presto: can one really allow it to be played in a drawing-room full of women in low-cut dresses? To be played, and then followed by a little light applause, and the eating of ice-cream, and talk about the latest society gossip? Such pieces should only be played on certain special, solemn, significant occasions when certain solemn actions have to be performed, actions that correspond to the nature of the music. It should be played, and as it’s played those actions which it’s inspired with its significance should be performed. Otherwise the generation of all that feeling and energy, which are quite inappropriate to either the place or the occasion, and which aren’t allowed any outlet, can’t have anything but a harmful effect.

Tolstoy - The Kreutzer Sonata

Posted by amin at 10:32 AM

March 12, 2008

the 19th century

Has an age ever seemed more remote from its immediate successor than the nineteenth century seems to us? The characters of Dickens, for all their vividness, might just as well have been crafted on some distant planet. The prose of the period, read under the harsh light of contemporary expression, could have come from Cicero’s Rome. Or, again, consider Nelson at the battle of Trafalgar, signaling from his flagship, “England expects that every man will do his duty,” and repeating over and over, as he lay dying, “Thank God I have done my duty.” To the modern ear such words have an ancient ring and call up something deep in the recesses of history.

Daniel Robinson - Toward A Science of Human Nature

Posted by amin at 11:09 AM

March 10, 2008

the present is never our end

Let each of us examine his thoughts; he will find them wholly concerned with the past or the future. We almost never think of the present, and if we do think of it, it is only to see what light it throws on our plans for the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.

Pascal - Pensees

Posted by amin at 11:05 PM

March 9, 2008

the boundaries of language

My whole tendency and I believe the tendency of all men who ever tried to write or talk Ethics or Religion was to turn against the boundaries of language. This running against the walls of our cage is perfectly, absolutely hopeless. Ethics so far as it springs from the desire to say something about the ultimate meaning of life, the absolute good, the absolute valuable, can be no science. What it says does not add to our knowledge in any sense. But it is a document of tendency in the human mind which I personally cannot help respecting deeply and I would not for my life ridicule it.

Wittgenstein - Lecture on Ethics

Posted by amin at 12:18 AM

March 7, 2008

the unchangeable forms of human nature

A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth. There is this difference between a story and a poem, that a story is a catalogue of detached facts, which have no other bond of connexion than time, place, circumstance, cause and effect; the other is the creation of actions according to the unchangeable forms of human nature, as existing in the mind of the creator, which is itself the image of all other minds.

Shelley - A Defense of Poetry

Posted by amin at 10:50 PM

March 6, 2008

the right attitude in philosophy

The right attitude in philosophy is to accept aims that we can achieve only fractionally and imperfectly, and cannot be sure of achieving even to that extent. It means in particular not abandoning the pursuit of truth, even though if you want the truth rather than merely something to say, you will have a good deal less to say. Pursuit of the truth requires more than imagination: it requires the generation and decisive elimination of alternative possibilities until, ideally, only one remains, and it requires a habitual readiness to attack one’s own convictions. That is the only way real belief can be arrived at.

Thomas Nagel - The View From Nowhere

Posted by amin at 11:41 AM

the childhood of the intellect

A lot of philosophers are sick of the subject and glad to be rid of its problems. Most of us find it hopeless some of the time, but some react to its intractability by welcoming the suggestion that the enterprise is misconceived and the problems unreal.

This is more than the usual wish to transcend one’s predecessors, for it includes a rebellion against the philosophical impulse itself, which is felt as humiliating and unrealistic. It is natural to feel victimized by philosophy, but this particular defensive reaction goes too far. It is like the hatred of childhood and results in a vain effort to grow up too early, before one has gone through the essential formative confusions and exaggerated hopes that have to be experienced on the way to understanding anything. Philosophy is the childhood of the intellect, and a culture that tries to skip it will never grow up.

There is a persistent temptation to turn philosophy into something less difficult and more shallow than it is. It is an extremely difficult subject, and no exception to the general rule that creative efforts are rarely successful. I do not feel equal to the problems treated in this book. They seem to me to require an order of intelligence wholly different from mine. Others who have tried to address the central questions of philosophy will recognize the feeling.

Thomas Nagel - The View From Nowhere

Posted by amin at 10:56 AM

March 2, 2008

faith and knowledge

The source of everything “miraculous” is faith, and moreover a faith so bold that it seeks no justification from reason, it seeks no justification from any quarter; a faith that instead summons everything in the world to its own tribunal. Faith is above and beyond knowledge. When Abraham went to the Promised Land, explains the Apostle, he went not knowing himself where he was going. He had no need of knowledge, he lived by what he had been promised; the place where he arrived would be the Promised Land, simply because he had arrived there.

Lev Shestov - Kierkegaard and Existential Philosophy

Posted by amin at 12:37 AM