The Heterodox

The Heterodox


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Epigrams and Enlightenment 1.0

December 10, 2010 , ,

Today I will initiate a new series of posts which will appear periodically on this site. I felt that it might be interesting for those of my readers with a philosophic bent to become aware of the philosophers and writers whose epigrams have contributed most to my own epistemology and approach to philosophic inquiry. To keep in line with the methods of philosophy I have thus far laid bare on this site, all aphorisms appearing in these posts will fall into my established structure of philosophic moieties which are the existential, the ethical, and the aesthetic realms. For today, I thought we should begin by examining some aureate examples of existential enlightenment and approaches to philosophizing.

David Hume– The mere philosopher is a character, which is commonly but little acceptable in the world, as being supposed to contribute nothing either to the advantage or pleasure of society; while he lives remote from communication with mankind, and is wrapped up in principles and notions equally remote from their comprehension. On the other hand, the mere ignorant is still more despised(…) The most perfect character is supposed to lie between those extremes; retaining an equal ability and taste for books, company, and business; preserving in conversation that discernment and delicacy which arise from polite letters; and in business, that probity and accuracy which are the natural result of a just philosophy.

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding of The Different Species of Philosophy

Who would not encounter many dangers and difficulties, in order to attain so sublime a character? Or if, by the help of vanity and a heated imagination, a man has first made a convert of himself, and entered seriously into the delusion; who ever scruples to make use of pious frauds, in support of so holy and meritorious a cause? The smallest spark may here kindle into the greatest flame; because the materials are always prepared for it. The “avidum genus auricularum”, the gazing populace, receive greedily, without examination, whatever soothes superstition, and promotes wonder.

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Of Miracles

Meister Eckhart
If a man’s work is to live, it must come from the depths of him–not from alien sources outside himself–but from within…

Blaise PascalRestricted in every way, this middle state between two extremes is common to all our weaknesses. Our senses can perceive no extreme. Too much noise deafens us, excess of light blinds us, too great distance or nearness equally interfere with our vision, prolixity or brevity equally obscure discourse, too much truth overwhelms us(…) This is our true state; this is what renders us incapable both of certain knowledge and of absolute ignorance.


Fyodor Dostoevsky
...All man wants is an absolutely “free” choice, however dear that freedom may cost him and wherever it may lead him to(…) But reason is only reason, and it can only satisfy the reasoning ability of man, whereas volition is a manifestation of the whole of life, I mean, of the whole of human life, including reason with all its concomitant head-scratchings. And although our life, thus manifested, very often turns out to be a sorry business, it is life none the less and not merely extractions of square roots(…) The whole meaning of human life can be summed up in the one statement that man only exists for the purpose of proving to himself every minute that he is a man and not an organ-stop!

Notes From Underground

Friedrich Nietzsche
One thing is needful, “Giving Style” to one’s character–a great and rare art! It is exercised by those who see all the strengths and weaknesses of their own natures and then comprehend them in an artistic plan until everything appears as art and reason and even weakness delights the eye.(…) Such spirits–and they may be of the first rank–are always out to interpret themselves and their environment as “free” nature–wild, arbitrary, fantastic, disorderly, astonishing; and they will do well because only in this way do they please themselves. For one thing is needful: that a human being attain his satisfaction with himself–whether it be by this or by that poetry and art; only then is a human being at all tolerable to behold. Whoever is dissatisfied with himself is continually ready for revenge, and we others will be his victims, if only by having to endure his ugly site. For the site of what is ugly makes one bad and gloomy.

-The Gay Science (290)

A very popular error: having the courage of one’s convictions; rather it is a matter of having the courage for an “attack” on one’s convictions!!!

Various Aphorisms

Jose Ortega Y Gasset
If you ask your own self, strictly and peremptorily, Who am I?–not, What am I? but, Who is that “I” of whom I perpetually talk in my daily life–you will become aware of the incredible manner in which philosophy has always gone astray by giving the name of “I” to the most unlikely things but never to the thing you call “I” in your daily life.(…) We must learn to free ourselves from the traditional idea which would have reality always consist in some “thing”, be it physical or mental. You are no “thing” you are simply the person who has to live “with” things, “among” things, the person who has to live, not “any” life but a “particular” life. There is no abstract living. Life means the inexorable necessity of realizing the design for an existence which each one of us is.(…) And here appears the most surprising thing in the drama of life: a man possesses a wide margin of freedom with respect to his I or destiny. He can refuse to realize it, he can be untrue to himself. Then his life lacks authenticity.(…)…A man can have but “one” authentic life, the life which his vocation demands of him. When his freedom induces him to deny his irrevocable “I” and arbitrarily substitute some other for it–arbitrarily, even though in accordance with the most respectable “reasons”–he leads a spectral, unsatisfied life between…”poetry and reality”…

In Search Of Goethe From Within

John-Paul Sartre
…Transcendence in immanence does not bring us out of the subjective(…) the objective will never come out of the subjective nor the transcendent from immanence, nor being from non-being(…) To say that consciousness is consciousness of something means that for consciousness there is no being outside of that precise obligation to be a revealing intuition of something–i.e., of a transcendent being.(…) What can properly be called subjectivity is consciousness (of) consciousness.(…) Consciousness is a being whose existence posits its essence, and inversely it is consciousness of a being, whose essence implies its existence; that is, in which appearance lays claim to “being”. Being is everywhere…We must understand that this being is no other than the transphenomenal being of phenomena and not a noumenal being which is hidden behind them.

-Being and Nothingness

Karl Jaspers
Philosophy can only be approached with the most concrete comprehension. A great philosopher demands unrelenting penetration into his texts. This necessitates both the realization of a whole philosophy in its entirety, and taking pains with every single sentence in order to become conscious of its every nuance. Comprehensive perception and accurate observation are the basis of our understanding.(…) Philosophy has no institutional reality and is not in competition with the church, the state, the real communities of the world. Any objectification, whether it be the formation of schools or sects, is the ruin of philosophy. For the freedom that can be attained in philosophizing can not be handed down by the doctrine of an institution. Only as an individual can man become a philosopher. From becoming a philosopher he can derive no claims. He must not have the folly to wish to be recognized as a philosopher.(…) Philosophizing is the activity of thought itself, by which the essence of man, in its entirety, is realized in the individual man.

On My Philosophy

Walter Kaufmann
The existentialists have tried to bring philosophy down to earth again like Socrates; but the existentialist and the analytical philosopher are each only half a Socrates. The existentialist has taken up the passionate concern with questions that arise from life, the moral pathos, and the firm belief that, to be serious, a philosophy has to be lived. The analytical philosophers, on the other hand, insist–as Socrates did, too–that no moral pathos, no tradition, and no views, however elevated, justify unanalyzed ideas, murky arguments, or a touch of confusion.(…) But if the feat of Socrates is really to be repeated and philosophy is to have a future outside the academies, there will have to be philosophers who think in the tension between analysis and existentialism.

-Existentialism From Dostoevsky To Sartre

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