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A dozen notes and quotes #16

January 18th 2013 19:07
Poor ants stuck in an old cobweb. The spider had long since died, so their death did nobody any good.


So someone asked me last night, "Have you ever seen anyone change their mind in a philosophy discussion?"

Well, on the whole -- "No."


A child, seeing me carrying a parcel: "Oh look, Mum -- a postman."


He routinely gave gifts of wine to the staff. Bottles $200 and more. -- A thank you for a big account well handled. A thank you for hard work through a year. A "just because" gift of recognition...

But when someone borrowed a 30c iPhone cable without asking, oh how he raged.


I used to think it possible to talk through disagreement. After A----, I know it's not. You just meet layer on layer of assumption on assumption, mutually reinforcing, combined in complicated ways, and mixed with spiky emotions.

The two worlds of belief, yours and theirs, can only pretend to touch.

But there is an alternative, albeit feeble -- to hint, to suggest -- to use clues, insights, breadcrumbs.


One of the most terrifying things to be told -- in Auschwitz, "Here there is no why."


Perhaps the world did end on 21 December 2012, and everyone died -- it's just that we haven't yet noticed.


The child prodigy remained a child prodigy -- her entire life. How many times have you seen this happen?


"I wasn't born for anything
Wasn't born to say anything
I'm just here now and soon I'll be gone."

-- First Aid Kit, King of the World


You see that slum over there? I live in the mansion next to it.


In that country the sun set unexpectedly -- suddenly dark -- or suddenly lightened.


"I didn't ask to be born" -- the idea being: obligation is a matter of contract; contract depends on consent; before you were born, there was no consent, and therefore no obligation. Children don't owe their parents anything, humans don't owe God anything, and Frankenstein's monster doesn't owe Frankenstein anything.

But perhaps there are obligations even in the absence of contract.

The deeper problem: simply that notions like "owing" are human notions. They're to do with societies and culture and norms. It's not a problem within contract law; it's a problem with contract law. Questions pre-birth and post-death seem, in a sense, to be pre-society or post-society, outside any code, such that notions of owing don't even make sense.


Philosophy, game of reasons and persuasion, pursued long enough becomes mysticism -- the point "whereof one cannot speak".

But doesn't mysticism pursued long enough become philosophy?

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