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Philosophy

“The work of moral living is largely preventive – preventing our neurotic fixations or egotism from narrowing our horizons, preventing our loyalties from suppressing independent thinking, or preventing our mental impatience from abandoning the difficult path toward complete understanding. The rest feels less like work and more like allowing a natural exuberance to a moral creativity whose range has not been artificially narrowed by bias.”
I only just learned this guy existed. All I’ve found of his own work in English is this (but there is also useful information here and here). If I weren’t prepared to judge his entire life’s work on the basis of one summary, though, I wouldn’t be saying anything about him at all, and these days the poor fellow needs all the attention he can get.

I’m not keen on any of the stuff about evolution or much of that about psychology so far. I should also point out that G.E. Moore is (in his inimitable fashion) not impressed. Some bits I like the sound of, though. Like this:

“The Utilitarians are still too absorbed by considerations of finality; they are entirely wrapped up in the end, which for them is utility, which is itself reducible to pleasure. They are hedonists, i.e., they make of pleasures, in an egoist or sympathic form, the great spring of mental life. We, on the contrary, place ourselves from the point of view of efficient causality, and not finality; we note in ourselves a cause which acts even before the attraction of pleasure as an end. This cause is life, tending by its very nature to grow and spread, thus finding pleasure as a consequence, but not taking it necessarily as an end.”

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If we take any baby born today (let’s call the individual we pick ‘Baby’), the history of its life has been born at exactly the same time. That history (let’s call it ‘H’) will grow relentlessly from nothing, adding a year to its girth every time Baby ages a year. If Baby eventually dies, at that moment H will reach its greatest size, and it will subsequently remain frozen in that state for the rest of time.

Such histories are clearly entities that inhabit time, because they can change (grow). The interesting thing is this: whatever our theory of how Baby persists through time may be, H has to persist by enduring. It can’t have temporal parts. (See here and here for the jargon.)

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Can we make a meaningful distinction between the purpose of a particular organ or behaviour in the species and its purpose in a particular individual?

For instance, if the species of bear Ursus Schmursus has a special claw for peeling wild onions, is it a consequence of this teleological fact that, for any member B of that species, B’s special claw is for peeling wild onions? (I’m allowing for individuals that don’t have the claw, or are unable to peel onions for other reasons of poor health, as uninteresting exceptions.)

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I have a hatful of quotes that I try to forget the provenance of so I can play the game of trying to guess. (Sometimes it’s too obvious to forget, but I try very hard.) Here are three with a common vein:

“Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believed.”
“Truth must necessarily be stranger than fiction; for fiction is the creation of the human mind and therefore congenial to it.”
“The truth, however nobly it may loom before the scientific intellect, is ontologically something secondary. Its eternity is but the wake of the ship of time, a furrow which matter must plough upon the face of essence.”
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