Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rather than writing for ONB, I've been composing my first paper for that Nietzsche course, on his aesthetic justification of existence in The Birth of Tragedy. My introduction was blasé, my prose turgid, my analysis facile and my conclusion an anticlimax; apart from that, the paper wasn't half bad. I'll see if I can improve my writing for the next one.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

See, this is why I love Nietzsche.

The intellectual conscience.— I keep having the same experience and keep resisting it every time. I do not want to believe it although it is palpable: the great majority of people lack an intellectual conscience. Indeed, it has often seemed to me as if anyone calling for an intellectual conscience were as lonely in the most densely populated cities as if he were in a desert. Everybody looks at you with strange eyes and goes right on handling his scales, calling this good and that evil. Nobody even blushes when you intimate that their weights are underweight; nor do people feel outraged; they merely laugh at your doubts. I mean: the great majority of people does not consider it contemptible to believe this or that and to live accordingly, without first having given themselves an account of the final and most certain reasons pro and con, and without even troubling themselves about such reasons afterward: the most gifted men and the noblest women still belong to this "great majority." But what is goodheartedness, refinement, or genius to me, when the person who has these virtues tolerates slack feelings in his faith and judgments and when he does not account the desire for certainty as his inmost craving and deepest distress—as that which separates the higher human beings from the lower.

Among some pious people I have found a hatred of reason and was well disposed to them for that; for this at least betrayed their bad intellectual conscience. But to stand in the midst of this rerum concordia discors and of this whole marvelous uncertainty and rich ambiguity of existence without questioning, without trembling with the craving and the rapture of such questioning, without at least hating the person who questions, perhaps even finding him faintly amusing—that is what I feel to be contemptible, and this is the feeling for which I look first in everybody. Some folly keeps persuading me that every human being has this feeling, simply because he is human. This is my sense of injustice.

[The Gay Science, I, 2]

Friday, February 08, 2008

Upgraded to the new Blogger.

I'm afraid I can't keep the Haloscan comments (at any rate, the ads on them were becoming increasingly irritating) in the new system. So, here we go with Blogger comments.

UPDATE: Whoops! OK, I didn't mean to require comment moderation. Fixed that.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

It is an eternal phenomenon:

the insatiable will always finds a way to detain its creatures in life and compel them to live on, by means of an illusion spread over things. One is chained by the Socratic love of knowledge and the delusion of being able thereby to heal the eternal wound of existence; another is ensnared by art's seductive veil of beauty fluttering before his eyes; still another by the metaphysical comfort that beneath the whirl of phenomena eternal life flows on indestructibly—to say nothing of the more vulgar and almost more powerful illusions which the will always has at hand. These three stages of illusion are actually designed only for the more nobly formed natures, who actually feel profoundly the weight and burden of existence, and must be deluded by exquisite stimulants into forgetfulness of their displeasure. All that we call culture is made up of these stimulants; and, according to the proportion of the ingredients, we have either a dominantly Socratic or artistic or tragic culture; or, if historical exemplifications are permitted, there is either an Alexandrian or a Hellenic or a Buddhistic culture.
-Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

Because I do not hope to turn again.

I've been heavily reading that Icarus of philosophy, who at last soared too close to the sun of searing truth before plunging into the sea of madness. You know to whom I refer. He has his many flaws, the marks of his generation and the marks of his own frenzy, but on matters of the greatest import he stands where others can only crawl.

I've written up a storm today, but it would perhaps shock you and certainly convince none of you, so it is best to remain silent. I will only state what I have come to believe more and more over the last several months: that Keats was duping himself, that without objective meaning in the cosmos there comes to be a separation between Beauty and Truth. Much that is true is beautiful to us, but the beautifully false is vast. We yearn for a narrative order that the cosmos simply does not provide.

Once, a homeless man in Berkeley asked me what I most desired in life; without thinking, I responded that I wanted to know the truth. First and foremost, as a religious contemplative and now as a secular one, that has always been my credo. If there comes to be a war (in any sense of the word) between Truth and Beauty, I know my side.

(But in the meantime, I should like to keep company with Beauty; thus my vestigial Catholicism.)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Yes. We. Can.

After all that careful, dispassionate deliberation, suddenly I'm surprised to find myself actually excited to vote today. I woke up to Obama getting interviewed on KFOG, followed by the news that the latest polls had him ahead of Hillary, 49% to 36%; and I've been getting legitimately giddy as I'm getting ready for the day. It's a weird feeling for me with respect to politics.