Table of Contents

The Little Book of Humanity.............................................................................................................................1 Marcus Aurelius on being human.....................................................................................................................2 Marcus Aurelius on fountain of good ................................................................................................................5 Bertrand Russell on dogma and evidence .........................................................................................................8 Oscar Wilde on pure and simple truth...........................................................................................................11 Feedback for Post "Oscar Wilde on pure and simple truth"..................................................................13 Robert G. Ingersoll on intellectual honesty....................................................................................................14 Feedback for Post "Robert G. Ingersoll on intellectual honesty ".........................................................17 Bertrand Russell on values and science..........................................................................................................18 Hippocrates on opinions and facts ...................................................................................................................21 Bertrand Russell on mistakes of Aristotle......................................................................................................23 Marcus Aurelius on living among lying men ..................................................................................................26 Feedback for Post "Marcus Aurelius on living among lying men "......................................................29 Bertrand Russell on interdependence of humankind....................................................................................30 Bertrand Russell on preoccupation with possessions....................................................................................32 Feedback for Post "Bertrand Russell on preoccupation with possessions"...........................................35 Bertrand Russell on free intellect and fanaticism..........................................................................................36 Feedback for Post "Bertrand Russell on free intellect and fanaticism".................................................39 Marcus Aurelius on living well........................................................................................................................40 Marcus Aurelius on nature and humans........................................................................................................43 George Orwell on patriotism and nationalism...............................................................................................46 George Orwell on money..................................................................................................................................49 Thomas Paine on ownership of earth..............................................................................................................52 Howard Winters on "we" and "them"...........................................................................................................55 Epicurus on possessions and servility.............................................................................................................58 Marcus Aurelius on happy life .........................................................................................................................61

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Table of Contents
Epicurus on fame and status............................................................................................................................64 Feedback for Post "Epicurus on fame and status".................................................................................67 Epicurus on God...............................................................................................................................................68 Feedback for Post "Epicurus on God "..................................................................................................71 Bertrand Russell on teapots in orbit...............................................................................................................72 Feedback for Post "Bertrand Russell on teapots in orbit" ......................................................................75 Epicurus on folly of prayer..............................................................................................................................76 Thomas Paine on the Bible...............................................................................................................................79 Robert G. Ingersoll on prisons of mind..........................................................................................................82 Marcus Aurelius on gods..................................................................................................................................85 Feedback for Post "Marcus Aurelius on gods"......................................................................................88 Bertrand Russell on philosophy and theology................................................................................................89 Bertrand Russell on vastness and fearful passionless force of non-human things.....................................92 Feedback for Post "Bertrand Russell on vastness and fearful passionless force of non-human things"...................................................................................................................................................95 Marcus Aurelius on causes of controversies...................................................................................................96 Bertrand Russell on fear and superstition......................................................................................................99 Epicurus on fears of the mind........................................................................................................................102 Epicurus on living justly .................................................................................................................................105 Marcus Aurelius on good and evil.................................................................................................................108 John Ruskin on consequences of beliefs ........................................................................................................111 Marcus Aurelius on loving those who wrong you........................................................................................114 Bertrand Russell on the authority of the sacred books...............................................................................117 Thomas Paine on approval of slavery in religions.......................................................................................120 Walter Lippmann on dangers of thinking alike...........................................................................................123 Anaxagoras on ownership..............................................................................................................................126

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Table of Contents
Diax on beliefs and truth................................................................................................................................128 Author's friends..............................................................................................................................................130 About the author.............................................................................................................................................132 Pageviews.........................................................................................................................................................133

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The Little Book of Humanity

Marcus Aurelius on being human
"Not to feel exasperated or defeated or despondent because your days aren't packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human -however imperfectly- and fully embrace the pursuit you've embarked on." Marcus Aurelius

I do think that in practice Marcus Aurelius is saying here that there is no reason and what's more important no excuse to give up, even if one is inevitably unable to reach the highest levels of excellence in what he or she does and strives for. I'd like to add to this that we should remember also that standards we use to evaluate people were originally set by similar failing and frail people as we are, but even so they can be and most often are extremely worthy goals to strive for. Marcus Aurelius reminds that we fail and fall, but we can stand up again and keep trying again and again and we can become better human beings day by day, week by week, year by year. However, I do think that one should remember that no human can never be and never has been perfect. Anybody claiming this sort of thing even for his or her favorite character in history is a victim of wishful thinking or simply lying. Saints or seemingly over-human historical figures are all too often created by just leaving the bad parts out of the final story and exaggerating the good parts. The exact opposite is of course very often true with the great villains of history. On the other hand every human can become a better person if he or she wants. This process of continuous betterment just might be the real essence of being human.

by jaskaw @ 01.12.2009 - 15:53:50 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/01/marcus-aurelius-on-being-human-7491078/

Marcus Aurelius on fountain of good
"Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if thou wilt ever dig." - Marcus Aurelius

This idea presented by Marcus Aurelius is for me the deep essence of humanism. I personally do think that that deep buried in all humans there is the ability for doing good also, but sometimes it just must be dug up with a conscious effort, or it may go to waste. For me at least the one of the most important things in humanism is the idea that every human being has a irrevocable value as human being. This is the more so, as I do think that every human being has the ability to do also good, even if political, social economical or ideolocigal circumstances do all too often create situations where a human is unable to express the good sides of his or her basic humanity. This all too often happens because of pressures brought about by other people acting as a collective. I do think that to truly see how a person is as a human, one must be able to see that person separate from the social, political or religious group he or she belongs to. I do fear that the true basic humanity of any person is all too often revealed only when he or she is able to act without the constraints brought about by different ideologies. For me core things in humanism is also a belief in the ability of humans to change. I do believe that a true humanist thinks that the fact that a person acts in a certain way at the very moment does not entail that he or she would not be able to change his or her behavior if circumstances that have brought about this behavior do change at a later stage. Of course there are also people who are not able to change. There just might be people who do not do a single recommendable deed during their entire lives, but happily they are

extremely rare exceptions. I do think that this kind of condition is commonly caused by very deep psychological problems and traumas, but they are not at all showcases of the basic human condition, but of how it can be changed by traumas and mental illness. However, such people are happily so rare that whole books are written about people who turn out to be that way. I do also think that all too many problems in this world are created by false negative expectations and too hasty characterizations made of other people. If you believe that a person you will meet will be difficult or unlikable, your negative expectations just could be the thing that triggers negative responses in the other person. The result just may be that he or she will really be difficult and unlikable. Of course it is all too easy to just sit here and say that a positive attitude will get you far. On the other hand just remembering this maxim by Marcus Aurelius could make one really understand that there could be a well hidden fountain of good in that other person also, even if your first impressions of him or her could have been even very negative.

by jaskaw @ 01.12.2009 - 22:33:18 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/01/marcus-aurelius-on-fountain-of-good-7493386/

Bertrand Russell on dogma and evidence
"I mean by intellectual integrity the habit of deciding vexed questions in accordance with the evidence, or of leaving them undecided where the evidence is inconclusive. This virtue, though it is underestimated by almost all adherents of any system of dogma, is to my mind of the very greatest social importance and far more likely to benefit the world than Christianity or any other system of organized beliefs." - Bertrand Russell in "Can Religion Cure Our Troubles?" (1954)

I do think that Bertrand Russell presents here the very basic requirement for the decision making process in a good society; decisions should not be based on dogmatic beliefs only, but they should be done based on the real world evidence and merits of the issue at hand as far as is possible. Reacting instantly basing the decision on some old and well-known dogma is admittedly often the quickest way to reach a decision. However, I do see that Bertrand Russell is saying here that when people get over that old gut-reaction, we will have in fact caused a real revolution in the decision making process in our societies, as things would be decided more and more on their real current merits, not on what has been done in the past. I do not think that Bertrand Russell would be saying that one should keep on waiting for all possible new information, before making a decision, as that would often slow down decision making process. In my mind he is just saying that one should normally just gather the available real evidence that we already have and make decisions based on them and not on old dogmatic beliefs. On the other hand I see that he is saying that we should defer nailing our final stand on those things that we have too little information to base a real opinion on and when the old dogma would be our only guide. Of course the difficult part here is to see when we have enough information to make a stand and when we should withhold our decision until there is enough real information. That decision still requires true wisdom, and this is sometimes in short supply in any form of government, I'm afraid.

by jaskaw @ 01.12.2009 - 22:38:20 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/01/bertrand-russell-on-dogma-and-evidence-7493422/

Oscar Wilde on pure and simple truth
"The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple." - Oscar Wilde

Are there such things as truths at all? I for my part think that we have a lot of best possible guesses, a truckload of extremely good approximations and masses of extremely accurate information, but are they unmovable and final truths? In fact science is in its essence not at all about creating any kind of final truth, but just about finding the best possible answer and explanation that is currently available with current knowledge and current means of discovery. The best possible answers provided by science will change if a better answer or better explanation is found. I would go as far as to say that absolute and unmovable truths are found only in mathematics and religions, and even those in the religions are in fact mostly extremely bold and extravagant delusions. Just their boldness and extravagance makes it so difficult to see their true nature as things made up by ignorant men to create at least some kind of answer to questions that did not have real answers at those ignorant times. In fact I do think that the absolute truths are possible even in mathematics only as far it is used as a purely theoretical tool. The absoluteness evaporates even in mathematics as soon as one starts measuring and calculating real world entities whose nature cannot all too often be defined in any kind of unchanging absolute terms, as pure theoretical mathematics is free to do when it uses purely theoretical mathematical entities in its theorems.

by jaskaw @ 01.12.2009 - 23:08:53 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/01/oscar-wilde-on-truth-7493601/

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FedupwithR [Member] 06.12.2009 @ 20:34 As Truth is not a material object it cannot exist. The Truths spoken of by religions are all too often unverifiable. The result of hallucinations, optical illusions rumor etc.

Robert G. Ingersoll on intellectual honesty
"But honest men do not pretend to know; they are candid and sincere; they love the truth; they admit their ignorance, and they say, "We do not know." - Robert G. Ingersoll in "Superstition" (1898)

As I see it, Robert G. Ingersoll is speaking here mostly about the unbelievable callousness of many of the religious people who simply claim to know the final and unmoving answers to many question that are difficult or even impossible to answer in real world. They all too often claim to also have the final and unmovable truth of how people should behave and how things should be arranged in a life of a human being. It just takes a lot more guts of a person to say: "I really do not know what the final answer is, and I do not know if I ever will". A true follower of any of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) will just never be capable of doing it, as the main selling point of these religious is just claiming to have certainties in issues where they simply do not exist. On the other hand science is not at all about being certain and creating final and unerring laws of nature. Science is all about striving to reach the best possible answer there is to be had at any given moment. This is a quite different thing than a final and absolute truth offered so easily and eagerly by so many religions. On the contrary the answers given by science can and will change when new data emerges and enough scientists are convinced of its correctness. That fact is also the main reason why religion and science will always be inherently incompatible on a very basic level.

by jaskaw @ 02.12.2009 - 11:31:55

http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/02/robert-g-ingersoll-on-intellectual-honesty-7495958/

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Richard Prins [Visitor] http://richardprins.com 02.12.2009 @ 11:44 I'd add one of my favourites by Charles Darwin to this (from The Descent of Man, 1871, p. 4): "It has often and confidently been asserted, that man's origin can never be known: Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science." | Show subcomments jaskaw pro http://www.beinghuman.blogs.fi 02.12.2009 @ 11:47 A great quote, Richard, thanks!

FedupwithR [Member] 06.12.2009 @ 20:17 I would have said "unbelievable effrontery"of the religious.

Bertrand Russell on values and science
"While it is true that science cannot decide questions of value, that is because they cannot be intellectually decided at all, and lie outside the realm of truth and falsehood. Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know." - Bertrand Russell in "Religion and Science (1935), ch. IX: Science of Ethics"

I do think that we can also scientifically explore what for example love and morality are, how they have evolved, what purpose they do serve and what is the groundwork laid by physical and most of all cultural evolution on which these ideas do rest in general. I do think that we can achieve great insights also in the field of human values by trying to understand with the help of true scientific inquiry why certain models of human behavior have been and are deemed 'good' and certain models as 'bad' in a certain society at a given time. I however also do think that classifying specific actions for example 'loving' or 'moral' and others as 'unloving' or 'immoral' in a specific society cannot in reality be done by scientific methods alone. The values used in a society are created in a quite unpredictable cultural processes that can change unexpectedly and rapidly, when the situation and needs of the society do change I do think that the real world classification of human activity as 'good' or 'bad' is basically determined by the overall basic moral grammar that is in use in that society. A fact of life is that this moral grammar is not based on rational ideas alone at all, but also on fears, deep-seated emotions and also some very irrational ideas and ideologies. However, I do think that we can use scientific methods to determine which are the real net results for the individual or society at large of applying different kinds of morality and values in a society, even if we cannot create the values themselves with scientific methods alone.

by jaskaw @ 02.12.2009 - 15:27:38 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/02/bertrand-russell-on-values-and-science-7497094/

Hippocrates on opinions and facts
"There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance." - Hippocrates (460 BC - 377 BC) in "Law"

As I see it, Hippocrates is not saying here that people should not have opinions of their own, as some people have clearly interpreted this quote. I think that Hippocrates is implying also here that also opinions should be based on facts as far as possible. I do think that Hippocrates in fact means here by opinions those ideas that are based just on the force of tradition and old prejudice and also those ideas that that are based on wishful thinking and not on known facts. Of course in all organized human communities there will always be different opinions based on differences in life experiences, different expectations and different views on the world as a whole. However, I do think that he more these opinions are based on current, known and established facts of the physical world, the more realistic the decisions made on them will ultimately be, even I fear that a society based on facts alone is in practice impossible to create. However, I do think that merely understanding the difference between fact and opinions as Hippocrates is suggesting here can help in creation of even a bit more rational societies.

by jaskaw @ 02.12.2009 - 23:55:21 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/02/hippocrates-on-opinions-and-facts-7500556/

Bertrand Russell on mistakes of Aristotle
"Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths." - Bertrand Russell in "The Impact of Science on Society" (1951)

The imminent danger of following authority blindly lurks always also in modern science, even if it is in its foundations based on endless doubting and questioning of the established facts and current scientific 'truths'. The reason why this is dangerous also in science is of course that that the supposed authority can be dead wrong in some things, even if he or she can be on the right track on very many other things. So, the danger lurks at the very moment when a scientist achieves a position where his or her work is not doubted and questioned anymore. We are all humans and it is only natural that this will happen from time to time. Sometimes the great figure must pass away from the scene before his or her work can be studied with a really critical eye. However, the real fantastic thing about modern science is that this critical analyzing of the established facts and 'truths' is an non-stop event and eventually, even if often slowly and laboriously, the right path can be found again and mistakes of even great men and women corrected. We can in fact count on that even the most well-established mistakes will be corrected in the world of science given enough time. This inbuilt ability for self-correction in science makes inf fact it quite unique among all of the enterprises humanity has embarked on during its long history. Aristotle thought that women are a lower species than men and just maybe he wanted just to find support for his opinions and maybe for that reason did not even want to check the facts. This danger of idealogical bias lurks of course also today also in science, but the openness and self-corrective quality of science can work wonders also in this respect.

by jaskaw @ 03.12.2009 - 15:19:07 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/03/bertrand-russell-on-aristotle-7503438/

Marcus Aurelius on living among lying men
"There is but one thing of real value - to cultivate truth and justice, and to live without anger in the midst of lying and unjust men." - Marcus Aurelius

I do think that the single most important and valuable single phrase here is "without anger". Besides making often one's own life more livable and bearable, I do think that remaining calm in the most difficult moments of social interactions can also put you in position of clear advantage compared to those who act in state of anger. So, Marcus is not speaking out because of his love for the whole of mankind, but because one can really collect a real life bonus from achieving a level of control over ones own anger and other negative emotions. Of course this kind of thing is incredibly more difficult to implement than to just say, but understanding the value of patience is the necessary start. On the other hand, in my books passion is a quite different animal than anger, as passion is a positive feeling and anger is a negative one. I would dare to say that passion drives you forward, but anger very often stops you on your tracks. One so easily gets stuck in the old and otherwise soon bygone mishaps and all too often even imagined wrongdoings of others. If you let anger guide you, you may end up spending your energies in wallowing on old and often in the end quite meaningless insults and wrongdoings of others, instead of concentrating on all of the great work you are about to do in future. I do think that Marcus is saying here that a strong enough person will not let his fears and negative thought guide him or her, as this will not benefit him or her in the long run.

This is of course the very central message of Stoicism. Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic and from his book 'Meditations' it is easy to see that he himself did believe that this system of thinking did help him greatly in his extremely difficult job. He was the emperor of the mightiest empire of his time, and in the end he was expected to collaborate and get along with all kinds of people from all walks of life to do his work well. By all remaining accounts at least he also succeeded in making this difficult and extremely demanding principle work in real life. Of course no person can ever control his or her negative emotions fully, but I do think that at least giving it a try can also help in very many situations.

by jaskaw @ 03.12.2009 - 19:15:51 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/03/marcus-aurelius-on-living-among-lying-men-7504684/

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FedupwithR [Member] 06.12.2009 @ 19:41 Henry Miller once said that anger was a mental sickness. Anger seems to be accepted today as a justifiable way to behave whereas, as you say, it is totally negative. Anger itself never solves any problems and life would be so much more agreeable if everyone just stayed calm.

Bertrand Russell on interdependence of humankind
"Humankind has become so much one family that we cannot ensure our own prosperity except by ensuring that of everyone else. If you wish to be happy yourself, you must resign yourself to seeing others also happy." - Bertrand Russell in "The Science to Save Us from Science" in The New York Times Magazine (1950)

In my my mind Bertrand Russell is saying here that our human race has for a very long time been so interdependent that to ensure our own true happiness, we must ensure that others are happy too. I'm also quite sure that he did mean this on a global level, not only in ones own immediate life circle or even one's own society. It takes of course a lot to see and really understand the mankind as united whole, with all of its different ideas of how the relationships between humans should be organized. I do think that Bertrand was way ahead of his time, but I do also think that globalization is in fact a centuries old phenomena. The interdependency between all nations was there even in 1950, but it was not talked about as much as now, as it was a part of the nationalistic agenda to downplay the international aspect of human enterprise. Of course internationalization and globalization have been intensifying in the last few decades, but it is a question of rise in the quantity and also quality of the old ties between nations. I do think that because of this ongoing process of internationalization, this quote by Bertrand Russell is in fact more current than ever before.

by jaskaw @ 03.12.2009 - 23:19:37 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/03/bertrand-russell-on-interdependency-of-humankind-7506326/

Bertrand Russell on preoccupation with possessions
"It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly." - Bertrand Russell in "Principles of Social Reconstruction" (1917)

I think that the word "preoccupation" is the key-word here. It is the lack of moderation that is the real problem, not the ideas of possession and ownership in itself. As far as I know, Bertrand Russell was not against the idea of private property, but he saw how these things do preoccupy the minds of men and women to a degree that makes creating a just society much more difficult. This is of course a very Epicurean thought. In the very heart of the Epicurean thinking there are ideas about achieving a balanced life by controlling ones urges and needs. These ideas are do apply also to our needs concerning the urge to possess new things. I must repeat that in my mind Bertrand Russell is not saying that ownership of things is bad thing per se, but I do think that he simply says that too great preoccupation with collecting and preserving existing possessions can burden a person quite unnecessarily. I do think that this idea really touches a very central and also very painful nerve in our society. I don't expect this discussion to die out anytime soon or that on the other hand it will ever lead to any kind of final conclusion. But I do sincerely believe that this kind of discussion is sorely needed, as I do think that no single facet of our society should not be taken as granted. In the end, who can really for example say what is the right level of consumption that is needed to keep up a a modern society that can support all its members?

by jaskaw @ 04.12.2009 - 21:32:26

http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/04/bertrand-russell-on-possessions-7511555/

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antony rounis [Visitor] http://antony 06.10.2010 @ 08:55 As far as I can explain by my own example, possession fixes our wings on earth. If we want to fly to our type of living we' ve chosen, we have to throw that weight far away. Free life, i suppose, may be within possessions. Many times, these 2 words are contrary. That is the time one have to choose. Life free or like a bee!

Bertrand Russell on free intellect and fanaticism
"One who believes as I do, that free intellect is the chief engine of human progress, cannot but be fundamentally opposed to Bolshevism as much as to the Church of Rome. The hopes which inspire communism are, in the main, as admirable as those instilled by the Sermon on the Mount, but they are held as fanatically and are as likely to do as much harm." Bertrand Russell in "The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism" (1920)

I do believe that the degree and level of fanaticism is the crucial thing here. The exact policies and ideologies the fanatics are furthering are really of quite secondary importance in this context. In my mind Bertrand Russell is speaking of the closed mindset of a fanatic, where only information supporting ones existing views is accepted and all contradictory evidence is brushed aside. Most of all the true happiness or well-being of humans is in fact all too often less important for a fanatic than furthering ones extremely strongly held set of ideas. Bertrand Russell did see Soviet communist ideology as a closed system quite like the older religions. In fact he did often treat the Soviet communism as just a modern form of religion in his writings. It should be pointed out that Bertrand Russell himself continued to adhere to the western tradition of humanistic and democratic socialism to his very end. Bertrand Russell was of course looking at a specific point of history and opposing some specific policies, but I do believe this quote can still very well be used as a warning against all fanaticism be it coming from the left or right.

by jaskaw @ 05.12.2009 - 15:14:51 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/05/bertrand-russell-on-free-intellect-7514927/

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Erkki [Visitor] 06.10.2010 @ 19:37 It was easy for Russell to be critical of the Bolsheviks from a distance. He didn't have to deal with the Whites. When he wrote that, the Civil War had been going on for almost 3 years, with no end in sight. Indeed, the involvement of Britain, France, et al. helped prolong it: where is Russell's criticism of the "fanaticism" of the White Terror or the Western governments' support thereof? To be sure, the Bolsheviks had their fanatics. War and repression breed fanaticism. But the Bolsheviks were far from the worst example. | Show subcomments Itchtakov [Visitor] 07.10.2010 @ 02:42 To be fair, being a more philosopher and thinker than a politician, I don't think he spent his time criticising the Bolsheviks because they were worse, but rather because they were newer and more interesting. After all, Western imperialism had been around for hundreds of years and was I think already widely agreed to be wrong among left-wing circles, whereas no-one quite knew what to make of Soviet communism. | Show subcomments jaskaw pro http://www.beinghuman.blogs.fi 07.10.2010 @ 08:38 I do believe the thing that did turn Bertrand Russell against Bolsheviks was the wholesale suppression on all critical thinking that was part of their basic way operation. As Bertrand Russell saw critical thinking as the prime engine of human progress, he could not subscribe to a ideology that did systematically suppress the critical analysis of its own premises. He was also a humanist and the often quite unnecessary wholesale slaughters of opponents perpetrated by the Bolsheviks very early on did not endear him to them at all.

Marcus Aurelius on living well
"Where a man can live, he can also live well. " - Marcus Aurelius

I do think that striking the right balance in ones own mind is the important thing here. I do not think that this quote is about blindly accepting all the things that destiny throws at us, as some people seemingly tend to read this quote. As I see it, it is just a call for making the best of things when we are at the moment unable to change our circumstances and just such situations are regrettably quite common in a human life. However, I do believe that one can also strive for change without driving oneself to despair because of his or her current circumstances. Of course on the other hand just the personally felt feelings of hurt and despair have always been great forces for driving change. There lurks of course the danger of missing the possibility to change ones circumstances when a window of opportunity finally arises if one takes this accepting ones circumstances too far. As an old saying goes, it is in the end all about accepting those things one has no power to change and using one's energies in trying to change those things that one can really change. But most of all the big thing here is of course acquiring the wisdom to see the difference between these two.

by jaskaw @ 05.12.2009 - 18:03:02 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/05/where-a-man-can-live-he-can-also-live-well-7515623/

Marcus Aurelius on nature and humans
"Nothing happens to anybody which he is not fitted by nature to bear." - Marcus Aurelius

I do fear that this is not an easy idea at all, but I personally do think that good old Marcus means that the human species has evolved to bear and cope with all the good or bad things it commonly encounters in real life. Basically just millions and millions of similar earlier encounters with good and bad things in life have made our species what it is just now. Marcus Aurelius did not know anything about the modern scientific theory of evolution. However, very similar ideas were floating around also in times of Antiquity. These pre-evolutionary ideas were perhaps not formal scientific ideas in a way we know them, but thoughts based on just observing the extraordinary variety of myriads of different life forms and on thinking how this all could have happened and wondering why all the different creatures were as they were. The main point here is as I see it, that if something that humans would have commonly encountered in their daily life would really been too much for humans to bear, there would be no humans left at all. Ergo; we can learn to bear most of the things nature and life do throw at us, as they mostly are things that other people have learned to live and cope with before us. There are no kind of divine forces or destiny presupposed in this quote at all. It is all about the very nature of our species, which has with time changed us in a way that we can cope with at least most of the common features of the reality that we do live in.

We do not need divine help to cope with the difficult situation that do arise in every life, but we can rely on the tools that evolution of our species has given us to survive. We need just to remember that hundreds or thousands of generations of humans have survived with these very same skills before us. The proof of all this is of course that we all really are here against all odds.

by jaskaw @ 06.12.2009 - 14:53:44 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/06/marcus-aurelius-on-on-humans-and-nature-7520045/

George Orwell on patriotism and nationalism
"Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By patriotism I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality." "Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally." - George Orwell in "Notes on Nationalism" (1945)

I do think that there really is a point where the quite harmless garden variety of patriotism turns into something more nasty, as George Orwell tries to explain in his magnificent essay. I do think that in quite similar manner a Christian or even Islamic faith in itself needs not to lead to any bad things as such, if it is just taken in small and mild enough doses. However, even very bad things do very often appear the moment when beliefs do turn into fanaticism. This fact most certainly applies also to the feelings people have for their home country. In small enough doses patriotism can be quite healthy thing, but overdoing it will lead into trouble, as well as overdoing any strong ideology will lead to quite similar trouble. In general it well can be argued that whenever the well-being of a ideology becomes more important than well-being of humans, there is a good reason expect bad things to happen. The world would undoubtedly be a better place without even the milder forms of patriotism, but lets get real here; it ain't gonna go away very soon, if ever. However, I do think the formation of European Union is a great example how erasing the ill effects of nationalism and patriotism is possible. It is no coincidence that it happened Europe which has been completely ravaged and

devastated by the effects of the worst kind of nationalism two times during the last century. I do think that lessons learned from these two World Wars were even the main reason why the national leaders of the nations of Europe were so willing to give up important areas of national independence to form a quite new kind of area of peace. I do think that European Union was and still is a grand step forward towards achieving real and lasting peace in a continent that has been ravaged by continuous wars from the time immemorial.

by jaskaw @ 06.12.2009 - 20:02:06 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/06/george-orwell-on-patriotism-7521607/

George Orwell on money
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not money, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not money, I am nothing." - George Orwell in "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" (1936)

George Orwell is in my mind expressing a very universal thought here. It does not matter who you are, how eloquent you are, how perfect your mind is when you end up for reason or another in a situation where you have no money at all. In that situation you are simply nothing for very many people and often they do not want even to know about your very existence. George Orwell also knows very well what he is talking about here, as he did have a period when he was really at the bottom. George Orwell was born as Eric Blair, but he did use the pen name George Orwell for all of his life. He did originally come from a quite typical British middle class family. He started a normal middle class career as a police officer in Burma, but dropped out as he realized what he was really doing in the colonial Burma and as he decided to become a writer. After coming back from Burma he experienced the life of vagrants and hobos. He tells about this period in his life in his fine first book called "Down and out in Paris and London" and this period of utter and desperate poverty has surely influenced this quote. Later on he mostly led life of a typical freelance writer, where money was mostly scarce, as his real success did come very late in life and he did not much have time to enjoy the financial and critical success of his last masterpieces. 'Animal Farm' was published in 1945 and his best know work '1984' in 1949, only a year before before his death in 1950.

by jaskaw @ 07.12.2009 - 12:23:44 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/07/george-orwell-on-money-7526043/

Thomas Paine on ownership of earth
"Men did not make the earth. It is the value of the improvements only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property." - Thomas Paine in "Agrarian Justice" (1795 - 1796)

There is also a more profound philosophical level to this statement in my mind at least, if one forgets the problems of taxation that did in fact originally inspire this famous piece by Thomas Paine. I personally took this quotation to my heart because I think it also reminds us that we all in fact are just in the end borrowing something, when we claim to have the ownership over land or water. I believe that we must understand that we must in the end return that borrowed property in good condition to its rightful owners. In the case of land they are the coming generations and humanity and also the ecosystem of the Earth as a whole. If we want to preserve Earth as a viable ecosystem for all of the coming generations we must behave as any lender of borrowed things must do. I do mean that we can never own a piece of land similarly as we own a television set and do whatever we like to it. We have obligation to keep it in such a condition that also coming generations can also use it; in that sense we are not owners, but borrowers. There is a crucial difference on owning things and owning land; we can build new cars and boats if we destroy them, but if we destroy the mother-ship Earth because we just did not care enough of the future, the children of our grandchildren just may have nothing left. We must of course improve and use land to our own benefit to be able to live, but we should always remember that we are never the final owners of any part of it. I do think that only after we learn how to do this, can we hope for the ultimate survival of the human race. I must add that I am not talking about taking something away from anybody here. Thomas Paine was not taking away things from people, but giving them new things; namely responsibility for their actions also concerning the land they happen to own. Thomas Paine does nod dispute the right of the individual to "own" land and also collect the

profits that can be gained from using it. He is only saying that land is different from all other property, as it has not been made by anybody, but has existed before the rise of the mankind, even if men can improve the land by creating farms and building houses on it. The first owner of any land has not created it, as a house or a car is created by men, but has simply declared it as his own and by doing it excluded others from using it. Ownership of land is a social convention only and this is the reason why there has been the so many land-reforms in countries where private property is honored in all other forms. Thomas Paine just states the obvious here. I do think that one is not allowed to do one's children anything that will harm them permanently; similarly I do see that people cannot be allowed to harm permanently any piece of Earth they claim to own. The state restricts your right to do harm to your children, why cannot it restrict your freedom to harm the planet we all live in? This Earth will be here 50 billion years after we are dead, but without humans if humans are allowed to make the planet inhabitable because of short-sighted greed. The question in worst cases of harming land and the whole Earth permanently is never about feeding the hungry or poor, but generating enough profit for the big players.

by jaskaw @ 07.12.2009 - 22:01:16 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/07/thomas-paine-on-ownership-of-earth-7529596/

Howard Winters on "we" and "them"
"Civilization is the process in which one gradually increases the number of people included in the term 'we' or 'us' and at the same time decreases those labeled 'you' or 'them' until that category has no one left in it." - Howard Winters

I do think that broadening of the sphere of group inclusion that Howard Winters is speaking about here is a clear and unmistakable evolutionary trend, if one just cares to think about it. However, I see that it still is one of the less widely observed and most of all accepted general trends in the human history. This just may be because it is not brought about by any single ideology or process, but it is a result of many simultaneous developments. Most of all I fear that noticing this important trend does not fit the ideology of very many people, especially those espousing different forms of nationalism. Noticing things like this is a matter where the discipline of history called the Big History can really help. The Big History tries to see the bigger picture behind individual historical events and find deeper trends and changes in human behavior that do ultimately propel along also the visible changes. I do see that the ongoing creation of a whole new kind of global digital marketplace of ideas and computerized goods has greatly intensified this erosion of national borders and also "us" and "them" thinking. I see a simultaneous creation of global tribes that can be identified in every corner in the world. This process is having a tremendous impact in the way the coming generations will see the importance of national borders. This formation of transnational global tribes has been gaining momentum for decades, but the rise of the Internet has intensified this process tremendously, as now you can really hang out and even "live" with your tribe in the Net. This global tribalization is not without its own grave dangers, but the important thing is that it is slowly eating away the lifeblood of the extremist nationalism, which do form a real axis of evil together with the fundamentalist interpretations of the religion. Extreme nationalism and fundamentalist religions are the last bastion on the dangerous "us" and "them" -thinking. Eroding the basic divisions of humans that have been for so been created along the national borders does inevitably also weaken the base for extremism based on physical divisions of humans. Of course we will never reach any kind of Utopia that is admittedly hinted in the original quote, as even when old fault lines dividing humans disappear, new ones will arise. However, I for my part do honestly think that weakening the power base of extreme nationalism can do only

good for the humanity as a whole, even if it will not solve all of our problems. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_history http://archaeology.about.com/od/archaeologistsw/g/wintersh.htm American archaeologist Howard Dalton Winters [1923-1994] was probably most influential in the fleshing out of G.R. Willey's settlement patterns study. Winters argued that the proper way to study a settlement pattern (that is to say, a group of related sites, each with their own role) was as a system, as each part of a working whole. He was also interested in identifying the reasons for the selection of which goods were funneled through trade networks in the past, what the value of these goods were to the people who traded them.

by jaskaw @ 08.12.2009 - 13:47:49 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/08/howard-winters-on-we-and-them-7533105/

Epicurus on possessions and servility
"A free life cannot acquire many possessions, because this is not easy to do without servility to mobs or monarchs." - Epicurus

This is one of the easiest maxims by Epicurus: you must simply choose if you want to collect possessions or if you want to be truly free. Of course this decision is most often done without really noticing that there would even be alternatives available, as the weight of tradition and expectations do often narrow down ones real choices even considerably. Of course not all men or women do even ever want to lead a free life, but are happily serving the mobs in for example in Hollywood at their typewriters or directors chairs. They are serving the mobs by trying desperately to second guess what the mobs would like to see tomorrow, what horribly exaggerated catastrophes or morbid tales of rampant irrationality they would like dwell in next. On the other hand, "servility to monarchs" is easiest to observe in a modern society in the middle management in every business corporation of the world. Few people seem even to understand how a necktie or cravat is a physical sign of servitude that says: "Here is the rope already in my neck, my life is yours if you so wish,". Only the real owners and on the other hand the men at the ultimate bottom can discard this outward sign of servitude. Those who do not plan to rise up in the corporate ladders can be much more relaxed and are in fact more free than those above them. The men at the middle are often highly dependent on the opinions of their superiors, and lose their much of their freedom just because of their eagerness to gain and better positions and though it more possessions. On the other hand the men at the very bottom of the corporate ladder need often not to constantly show their servitude; they just need to do their work well, and this is a different thing altogether.

by jaskaw @ 09.12.2009 - 00:25:56

http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/08/epicurus-on-possessions-7536915/

Marcus Aurelius on happy life
"Very little is needed to make a happy life." - Marcus Aurelius

Even though Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic he had a clear fondness for many of the central ideas of the older Epicureanism and was certainly very familiar with them. This maxim is of course pure Epicureanism, even if Stoicism was a rival of Epicureanism in the field of philosophies that were actively competing for audience in the Roman Empire. At the bottom of it all is that happiness is purely a state of mind. The true level of happiness does not depend on the economical circumstances, given that one does not let them interfere and affect ones state of mind. Of course certain basic necessities must always be fulfilled before a human can even really contemplate and value his or her state of happiness. It is very difficult to be happy when you are hungry, thirsty or suffering from cold. However, after these very basic necessities are fulfilled, the amount of happiness new acquired things do bring with themselves is a purely mental process. The amount of happiness new things do bring depends more on relationship of one's expectation and what happens on reality, than on the value that new acquired things do really bring with themselves. Many studies have shown that after a certain level of material well-being is reached, adding more material wealth will not cause more rise in the feelings of happiness and contentment people do have. Of course reaching even a momentary state of happiness in Auschwitz was certainly

unbelievably more difficult than just a few meters away outside the fence. On the other hand a unexpected friendly smile or extra loaf of bread could bring even there a moment of great happiness, who knows?

by jaskaw @ 09.12.2009 - 14:51:01 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/09/marcus-aurelius-on-happy-life-7539691/

Epicurus on fame and status
"Some men want fame and status, thinking that they would thus make themselves secure against other men. If the life of such men really were secure, they have attained a natural good; if, however, it is insecure, they have not attained the end which by nature's own prompting they originally sought." Epicurus (Principal Doctrines 7)

I see that this Epicurean doctrine merely states that a great fame, a lot of money or even a extremely high social status and power brought about by it alone cannot make a person ultimately feel safe, if that status is not secured by a solid enough approval of others. In my mind Epicurus is not saying here that achieving fame and status would be bad things as such, given only that they are achieved in a way that one can be secure in his mind that this situation can continue. Of course one should not forget that the higher in the social ladders of society or a organization one climbs, the more dependent on others and the more less free as individual one also all too often becomes. So I do interpret this this doctrine as saying that a position of status in a society must be achieved in a way that does not antagonize others, if one really seeks a true peace of mind. Of course not everybody is after such a peace of mind at all, as the fame and status are so often seen as worthy goals as themselves. Careful reading shows that this doctrine is not about the inner feelings of a person, but about how the social status of a person is always ultimately dependent on other members of the society. I would even claim that Epicurus is saying that a insecure and wrongfully or forcefully achieved good social status is causing more pain than it is worth. In Epicurean thinking true mental peace can be achieved only when one is fully accepted by other members of his or her own society. So a even a very high a social position that is achieved by fear or coercion will not really benefit a person mentally in the long run, as it will so easily ultimately lead to mental pain and anxiety.

by jaskaw @ 10.12.2009 - 00:01:57 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/09/epicurus-on-fame-and-status-7542696/

Feedback for Post "Epicurus on fame and status"
Zuhal [Visitor] 14.10.2010 @ 21:40 By saying this. Epicurus automatically assumes that reaching a high status and fame is a means to peace of mins and security alone. What if the goal wasn't security or peace of mind? For instance, a man decided that he wants to become a president to serve the people of his country. We all know that this job is far away from achieving peace of mind. I think Epicurus should reconsider his statement!! | Show subcomments jaskaw pro http://www.beinghuman.blogs.fi 14.10.2010 @ 21:59 Dear Zuhai, this statement of course applies only if a person is striving to achieve mental peace, as I did fact already point out in my own comment. Not all people at all are searching for anything like it, but if you do, Epicurus says that you should only seek such avenues for advancement in society that are secure, as insecurity is one of the greatest sources of mental stress.

Epicurus on God
"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" - Epicurus

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This very famous quotation has been in circulation for a very long time and it has always been accredited to Epicurus. It is not however not found among the pitifully few surviving fragments of his large and voluminous writings. For example there are only small fragments left of his 37 volumes of treatise called 'On Nature' and so the fact that something is not in his surviving texts does not preclude the fact that he could not have written it. The argument itself is of a type that was favored by the Greek skeptics, and it has been claimed that it may have been wrongly attributed to Epicurus by Lactantius (ca. 240 ca. 320), who was a Christian and regarded Epicurus as an atheist. Lactantius was maybe not far away from truth in his assessment, as in fact any of the 40 Epicurean Principal Doctrines does not proclaim any kind of need for some kind deity or depend on any kind of divine or supernatural forces. In fact on several occasions in his central surviving writings Epicurus stresses the need for not succumbing to fearing gods or to fear of death, which are of course cornerstones of all western religions. All the principles of Epicureanism need active involvement only from humans themselves to be fulfilled, and they cannot rely on any kind of supernatural forces to help them. Epicurus did refer to the idea of a god in some of his writings, but he saw that even if there would be gods, they would not bother humans or life on earth in any way. This idea leads to situation where one needs not to bother himself with the idea of gods at all. This idea does not really differ very much from atheism.

Be it as it may be this famous riddle is still quite valid, as all the question he asks have been left quite unanswered during the two and half millennium that has passed since these words were first written down in ancient Greece, where men could utter words like this and live to tell about it. A sorry fact of life is that the rise of extremely dogmatic Christianity made it impossible for over a millennium to even try to think like this.

by jaskaw @ 10.12.2009 - 15:32:54 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/10/epicurus-on-god-7548491/

Feedback for Post "Epicurus on God "
Winston Brown [Visitor] http://weightlossgodsway.weebly.com/ 14.12.2009 @ 08:02 God has been helping me lose weight - lately http://weightlossgodsway.weebly.com/ | Show subcomments Jervis Dacia [Visitor] 15.12.2009 @ 03:26 "Is God willing to prevent fat, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh obesity? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” The words of Epicurus may aid you in losing weight, if you can limit the natural but unnecessary desires. Penny C [Visitor] 17.10.2010 @ 01:58 Maybe if you didn't waste so much time in a pew you wouldn't need a god to lose weight. We have to exercise whether we like it or not. Maybe a professional shopper? Don't watch television too much, built in temptation. You make yourself fat and only you can make yourself lose weight. Though honestly that posters is just a spammer. I really find this saying perfect logic and wish I found it years ago. There are so many good causes that are springing up out of pure desperation that I have to say I am very encouraged by the human spirit. Forget the Holy Spirit. How many maniacs used that idea as an excuse to do wrong? How many people used religion to recruit or bring harm to others to make them do what they want them to do? Yeah, sure, God wants you to do this or that. Amazing how many people on this mud ball love to play God? Well a waste of time. When people discover their own abilities and use them to the best that they can be wondrous things really do happen. I am very happy to see everyday the amazing ideas that come to life due to people who just use their imagination for the good. They deserve some praise and here it is. Spend a little more of your free time at least saying, "thank you", to people who really deserve it. You may be the only person who does. People take too much in life for granted. I'm just living a simple life and I don't stress as much. If I want something, I work for it, save for it but always ask myself is it really necessary? Can I put the money to better use? Just things we all need to think about. Those of us who know God isn't taking care of anyone. It is the love and concern of other people. We definitely need a lot more love to go around. A lot more. Start thinking about the plight of others for a change rather than if you can get more of this or that. Share to love.

Bertrand Russell on teapots in orbit
"Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time." - Bertrand Russell in "Is There a God?" (1952).

This classical case of teapots in orbit has been in use for over half a century now, but the need to use it over and over again has sadly not gone away. Sadly all too many of the religious people seem not to grasp the essence of this story at all. I do think that the core problem is that they have great difficulty in understanding that the basic claims underlining their religion are just claims that were originally made by ordinary humans. They don't want to face the fact that all religions are just a refined forms of human ideologies which quite universally simply claim to be something else. When people have been steeped from very earliest childhood into thinking that some kind of deity has somehow produced their holy books, they do not necessarily grasp this metaphor used by Bertrand Russell's at all. They often seem just think that Bertrand Russell in speaking of made up things, when their holy books are a quite different thing, as it just is the absolute truth which just is of a divine origin. They have no difficulty with the fact that this claim of divine origin is based solely on the claims made in their holy books themselves in the first place. They gave often seem to have great difficulty in understanding that it simply is extremely

easy for a person to write texts that just seem to be dictated be a divine force, if he just so wishes for his own purposes. These purposes can be of course be quite noble and recommendable, as this pretending to be the voice of a 'God' could be seen as a great tool in advancing things that the writer sees to serve the greater good of his nation or even humanity as a whole. A religion can of course be used to convey recommendable and noble ideas. The core problem is that in religions these ideas are commonly presented as some kind of only and final truth. However, in the extremely complex world of humans there inevitably are many correct answers to most questions, depending on the needs of the current situation. As societies and most of all their needs do inevitably change with time the religious answers that were invented in different societies thousands of years ago can became even a heavy burden to society. They can eventually become a barrier that prevents the true flourishing and unlocking the true potential available in a society. Theists do not seem also ever to wonder why their god had a a habit dictating long texts to certain groups of herders and small time farmers several thousands of years ago, but has stopped this habit completely later on. They seem not to wonder why if there would be a god that would want all people to act, think and eat in certain way, why should he not appear constantly to dozens or hundreds of new prophets to make absolutely certain that his will is not corrupted with time? What Bertrand Russell did is to show with his example how the reasoning of the theist is so often based firmly on breath of thin air.

by jaskaw @ 10.12.2009 - 23:33:14 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/10/bertrand-russell-on-teapots-in-orbit-7551421/

Feedback for Post "Bertrand Russell on teapots in orbit"
Karen [Visitor] 11.12.2009 @ 03:18 Classic Russell. I adore him. Where is the Bertrand Russell of our age? Maybe Dennett. I really think he was underappreciated, even when he was alive. At least now some of us godless beings have brought him out of semi-obscurity. Ib Balicanta [Visitor] 11.12.2009 @ 09:50 He is, undoubtedly the most influential figure in my life. Ashley Moltzan [Visitor] 11.12.2009 @ 23:16 I love this! This man is an inspiration. Amin Farhadi [Visitor] 05.01.2010 @ 20:52 that's so true. I love him and among all the philosophers and writers he's the only one i've never disagreed with YET shahab [Visitor] http://azghalam.blogfa.com 20.10.2010 @ 21:33 Fascinating! I love him!

Epicurus on folly of prayer
"It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he can attain by his own power." - Epicurus (VS, 65)

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This quote does not need much commenting, as Epicurus states his meaning in a very straightforward way. Epicurus simply did not believe that pleading to some kind of higher or supernatural powers would help people in their real world problems, as in reality he clearly saw that only humans can help themselves with their own actions. Epicurus did not believe that there would be any kind of active divine forces would affect human life at all, even if there was appears a concept of god in some of his earlier writings. In other words he is basically just saying in more modern language that "a man got to do what a man got to do" and stop expecting help from quarters from where none is to be expected. Of course also a theist can well use this quote, as it can be interpreted in a way that prayer is not needed in the cases where humans can help themselves, but that this quote does not exclude the cases where humans are powerless and there is nothing real one can do no more to change the outcome. I do think that this interpretation would also serve the goal that Epicurus had in his mind when he wrote this, as even with this interpretation humans would not waste their resources to unnecessary and unfruitful pleading to supernatural forces in situations where they should be directed to real action. Of course one of the main purposes of prayer is to give a sense of empowerment to people who feel helpless in face of events that they do not have any control over. In such a situation praying can give a person a feeling that he or she is going at least something in a situation where there is nothing real to be done, and this can help a person mentally, even if it all is just an illusion.

by jaskaw @ 11.12.2009 - 15:51:58 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/11/epicurus-on-folly-of-prayer-7554789/

Thomas Paine on the Bible

"What is it the New Testament teaches us? To believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married; and the belief of this debauchery is called faith." - Thomas Paine in "The Age of Reason" (1794)

Writer and radical reformer Thomas Paine was one of the real Founding Fathers of United States. He was also a deist who did not support or even approve of any of the formal organized religions of his day. His book "The Age of Reason" is a wholesale condemnation of organized religion. It is no wonder that publishing it did land Thomas Paine in deep trouble in a world where Christian religion was still in a position of quite total mental hegemony. He had just a personal notion of a god-like spirit as the original reason for the existence of the Universe. However, this pantheistic god of Thomas Paine's did not interfere in the matters of humans at all. So, it was quite logical for him to denounce the Bible, even if did believe in a quite different concept of god. It should be kept in mind that the deistic idea of god has in practice nothing in common with the vengeful and angry Father-God of the Jews and of the Christians. During the latter part of his life Thomas Paine did oppos all organized forms of religion. One could even say this this opposition did develop into a hatred of dogmatic religious beliefs. However, this fact was generally suppressed from sight in the United States at least for nearly two centuries. There seems to be a lot of people in the United Stated who do not know have the faintest idea of where he really stoop in religious matters at all. Of course the people in the very vocal American religious right mostly fall into this category. It seems that they are just kept ignorant of the true nature of this remarkable man. Very many of them would undoubtedly be truly shocked if true ideas of this remarkable man would be revealed to them some day.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Paine

by jaskaw @ 11.12.2009 - 21:31:47 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/11/thomas-paine-on-the-bible-7557149/

Robert G. Ingersoll on prisons of mind
"When I became convinced that the universe is natural, that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell. The dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts and bars and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world, not even in infinite space. I was free." - Robert G. Ingersoll in "Why I Am An Agnostic"

Civil war veteran, colonel, later attorney general of Illinois, proficient writer and politician Robert G. Ingersoll reached as a orator a level where there are still very few competitors. He also had to courage to say what he thought is the society of 19th century where publishing this kind of thinking could still end up one in deep trouble. Robert G. Ingersoll was a skilled and gifted politician. However, he did never seek any higher elected office, even if he was asked and even pleaded to stand for election many times. He knew very well that a person rejecting the organized religions in a way which he did would not had been elected in the United States of his day, even before the birth of the modern vocal religious right. Robert G. Ingersoll was a firm supporter of social justice and equality of all humans and he stood for the downtrodden majority of the Americans in many different issues. He had for his day extremely radical views on slavery and equality of all humans, but also on the hot issue of rights of women. He may have been in a small minority when he did choose his the issues he stood for, but history has vindicated in fact all of his ideas in more level than one.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_G._Ingersoll

by jaskaw @ 13.12.2009 - 03:17:11 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/13/robert-g-ingersoll-on-prisons-of-mind-7564086/

Marcus Aurelius on gods
"Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones." - Marcus Aurelius

Wikiquote classifies this quote as 'unsourced', as it is not from 'Meditations', which is the only surviving literary work that is know with certainty to have been written by the Stoic philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius. It is of course quite possible that he could have uttered these ideas elsewhere and the original source is just lost. In any case the central idea that is presented here is such that a wise man like Marcus Aurelius could well have presented. The style also resembles very much that of Marcus Aurelius. We will never know for sure. However, this quote is a fine piece of rational thinking, whoever was its original writer. Marcus Aurelius was in his writings wholly concerned on the impact of human ideas and human activity in our real life. He did never speak of acting or living in a certain way just to please any kind of gods or deities.

The Stoic idea of god was one of a original cause; it is a life force that fills the universe. It was a pantheistic notion. This Stoic god is not a active participant in life of humans at all, as is the case in the Abrahamic religions like Judaism, Christianity or Islam. The Stoic god has in fact nothing in common with the Christian god, even if quite confusingly the same word is used for both. Of course Marcus Aurelius is here just basically saying that one should not burden oneself with abstract ideas, even more if those ideas bear no connection to the real world. Instead he insists on concentrating on living a good and just life in the only real life we do have. This quote could be read also as a reminder of how following the regulations and orders of a religion is not enough, as the really important thing is living a good and just life and these two can really be quite different things. What we know for certain is that he did strongly believe in the human ability to act in way which is best for him or her and for the society as a whole, if just enough effort is put into it.

by jaskaw @ 13.12.2009 - 13:46:55 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/13/marcus-aurelius-on-gods-7565403/

Feedback for Post "Marcus Aurelius on gods"
sandor [Visitor] 13.12.2009 @ 17:49 That's a great quote. I haven't read it before. My favourite is: "Love thy neighbour." There's no need to believe in "gods" or "religions" or in an Invisible Superbeing, yet those who do believe in such nonsense seem to be unable to remember those 3 simple words. "Love thy neighbour." End of story. Chris [Visitor] 13.12.2009 @ 20:11 That is exactly how I have always felt. gimmeabreak [Visitor] 13.12.2009 @ 20:31 abstract ideas like science? | Show subcomments Kirk [Visitor] 14.12.2009 @ 00:12 Sure science is abstract - it's a process for discovering and explaining nature. The subject of science -see figure 1 - is natural phenomena. These are real and not abstract. Some of the representations or models may begin as abstract but the goods ones get flesh put on the bones pretty quickly. The supernatural is completely, irrevocably abstract. That's for sure. hiptrigger [Visitor] 13.12.2009 @ 21:05 @ gimmeabreak - 'science' allowed you to leave your idiotic comment (using hardware, software, electronics, networking, metallurgy, chemical engineering, human factors, etc.) As opposed to the abstract idea of god(s) which was been *created* by fearful control freaks a long time ago and is culturally maintained by well, fearful control freaks today.

Bertrand Russell on philosophy and theology
"In science men change their opinions when new knowledge becomes available; but philosophy in the minds of many is assimilated rather to theology than to science." Bertrand Russell in Preface to "The Bertrand Russell Dictionary of Mind, Matter and Morality

I do think that Bertrand Russell is on something very important here. There are no final truths in philosophy as well as there are no final truths in no other fields of science and inquiry either. However, some very old philosophical ideas are be presented century after century, generation after generation, and they are all too often presented as something that is beyond critique. Philosophical ideas can really very easily become something that is treated like theology, as Bertrand Russell reminds here. They all too easily do become something that is taken as given and fixed and whose true origins and real meaning can become quite blurred. In my mind one should always remember that a true proponent of philosophy must be able to accept the possibility of even quite opposite views of the same issue being quite valid at the same time. I do think that a person with a true philosophical mindset should be able to see that many different ideas can be right in their own way in the same time, often depending on from what viewpoint the issue at hand is looked at a given time. The stark fact is that there are no universally accepted current paradigms in philosophy, as there are in many other fields of science. That of course is the way it should be, as philosophy is endlessly querying the contents of the human mind in its never ending quest for better answer on why we are as we are.

by jaskaw @ 14.12.2009 - 14:02:06

http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/14/bertrand-russell-on-the-difference-between-philosophy-and-theology-7572023/

Bertrand Russell on vastness and fearful passionless force of non-human things
"I must before I die, find some way to say the essential thing that is in me, that I have never said yet - a thing that is not love or hate or pity or scorn, but the very breath of life, fierce and coming from far away, bringing into human life the vastness and fearful passionless force of non-human things." - Bertrand Russell in "My Philosophical Development" (1959)

This quote is a very personal and intimate thing that perhaps tells more about Bertrand Russell as a person than it clarifies his philosophy and ideology. Of course any kind of interpretation of it by any other person than Bertrand Russell himself is just a shot in the dark, but I can't help myself, the more so as this beautiful quote does always evoke strong emotions in me. Be as it is, I personally do have a strong hunch that this quote is about the feelings and emotions that the realizing of the unfathomable vastness of the universe, the incredible and endless variety of the physical world and also of the unbelievable force of human imagination can bring forward in a person, if one really puts his or her mind into thinking about these matters. The 'passionless force' in this quote is for me at least a reminder of that nature in itself does not have purposes, morality or emotions, but they are human inventions that evolution has created in us that do serve us as humans. They do serve us well and with also their aid we really have achieved what we have achieved on this little blue dot that lies unnoticed in a remote corner of the vast and boundless universe. However, I do think that we do all too easily project our emotions to lifeless objects. We also all too easily tend to see intentions and purposes in things that do not really have intentions or purposes of their own at all. Of course in reality in the end I don't know any more about what this quote is all about than you, my dear reader, do know when you read it yourself.

by jaskaw @ 14.12.2009 - 23:37:32

http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/14/bertrand-russell-on-vastness-and-fearful-passionless-force-of-non-human-thing

Feedback for Post "Bertrand Russell on vastness and fearful passionless force of non-human things"
Robert [Visitor] 23.10.2010 @ 17:16 I think you did a great job of interpreting what Russel may have meant. I was thinking this "passionless force" that he speaks of is the witness within all of us that knows what is intangible to human intelligence, but is remembered after our brief sojourn on earth is over. Thanks

Marcus Aurelius on causes of controversies
"We are too much accustomed to attribute to a single cause that which is the product of several, and the majority of our controversies come from that." - Marcus Aurelius

I do think that philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius in the very heart of the matter in this quote. We as humans just do love simple and easy to understand explanations and we are extremely eager to jump at easy conclusions, if we are given half a chance to do so. This tendency of course has its evolutionary basis also, as making things as easily and with as little mental trouble as possible is generally advantageous to humans. However, we the millions of years we did use to develop into being the humans we now are did not furnish us with all the faculties we need in coping with the tremendous increase in complexity we do meet in our daily lives now. The world of hunter-gatherers or sheep-herders and small-time farmers was several magnitudes easier place to grasp than the ever-changing, fluid world of city-dwellers. The sad fact is that world is not so easy anymore. Also the explanation that is the most obvious is all too often not the right one, even if we so would like it to be so. The other very unfortunate human tendency is to cling to the answer one has once accepted, even if reality would show that it is a wrong one. We all too often simply discard the evidence that contradicts the things that we have learned earlier. Really changing one's views on important issues is so hard that I do think that there really are people who have never even tried it.

When the very basic convictions and ideas are questioned, we see very often see those people who present these new ideas as personal threats to ourselves, even if they would be questioning some of the ideas that we have learned earlier. It has been said that being a 'man of principles' who never changes his views is the easiest option; the really hard thing to do is accepting that you have been wrong. For this one needs real courage and will-power. Even the history of philosophy is full of single-minded and one-tracked attempts of trying to explain it all with one all-explaining thesis. Of course even the most single-minded and simple explanations can be very valuable contributions, just if one keeps in mind that the one and only final truth simply does not exist almost none of the cases.

by jaskaw @ 15.12.2009 - 16:38:13 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/15/marcus-aurelius-on-causes-of-controversies-7579075/

Bertrand Russell on fear and superstition
"Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom." - Bertrand Russell in "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish" (1943)

Fear is one of the main sources of hate. Hate is a very natural response to fear, as with it a person makes him- or herself ready to meet and resist the things that are causing the fear in the first place. One typically also hates the things and most of all the people one does have fear for, even if the reasons and origins of this fear can in reality be very obscure and in some cases even totally made-up. Fear is often aroused in purpose to further ideological or political aims, as those who foster fear well know that the hate will follow quite automatically when fear has been successfully aroused. This mechanism is used for a good measure in creating chauvinist, nationalist fervor, which has had very ugly consequences all too many times in human history. Spreading stories of atrocities committed by the 'other' side are a standard feature in preparing for modern conflicts, when one's own followers are peppered up for the fight. The flip-side of this strategy is of course that the fervor aroused in one's own followers will often cause them to produce true real-life atrocities. The circle of evil is then complete, when the 'other' side replies with its own atrocities, by which the trustworthiness of the original stories is of course also certified. The core problem is of course groundless and ideology-based fear in which quite natural human responses are used to further ideological and political aims.

by jaskaw @ 15.12.2009 - 21:21:36 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/15/bertrand-russell-on-fear-7580651/

Epicurus on fears of the mind
"If the things that produce the pleasures of profligate men really freed them from fears of the mind concerning celestial and atmospheric phenomena, the fear of death, and the fear of pain; if, further, they taught them to limit their desires, we should never have any fault to find with such persons, for they would then be filled with pleasures from every source and would never have pain of body or mind, which is what is bad." Epicurus (Principal Doctrines, 10)

The tenth Epicurean doctrine collects the ideas presented in earlier Epicurean doctrines. It does show the very essence of the Epicurean method for achieving mental stability and peace. In fact Epicureans are saying also here that forgetting the religious explanations for earthly phenomena can greatly pacify one's mind that can be troubled by the religious method of explaining natural phenomena as acts of divine forces that act in response to human actions. The mind of a person can be even greatly pacified, when he or she understands that natural phenomena are not punishments for sins committed by humans, but they be can fully explained rationally. Most of all important for Epicureans is to overcome the irrational fear of death that is cultivated by many religions to a maximum effect. Soothing this fear that they themselves are doing their best to foster is a age-old marketing ploy of many religions. Fear of death is of course quite natural for humans, but I do think that we can with conscious action diminish the effect it has on us. On the other hand the promise of freeing humans from fear of death is one of absolutely central marketing claims of most of all Christianity and Islam. It is however unclear how well the promises of eternal life really do alleviate this fear in real life.

To really work as a soothing factor these promises must be accepted fully and without any kind of doubt. For most people achieving such a certainty on a set of vague promises is quite difficult, or even impossible. However, to retain a faith on these grand promises many people are simply ready to dismiss all contradictory evidence and they can even feel people bringing this kind of evidence as direct threats. However, it is in end quite easy to understand that what we think or not think of death does not change the inevitability of the death in any way. On the other hand the fear of death really can damage our only lives here on earth if we allow it to take a hold in our minds. As important for Epicureans is developing a sufficient level of self-restraint, so that one does not hurt oneself or others by filling his or her desires. Being able to consciously limit ones wants and desires is the key here, as getting new things does only momentarily fulfill the human wants and needs. In the core of Epicurean thinking is the idea that a new desire for even bigger and shinier things is commonly developed, as soon something ones has desired is acquired. In essence Epicurus says that greater mental peace can be secured by getting away from this vicious circle of want and desire. Summa summarum; the doctrine simply says that getting rid of fear, but also of over-indulgence are the necessary cornerstones for a balanced life and happiness, if one sets his or her goal to achieve them. However, Epicurean did not believe in forcing other people into living according to their ideals. The whole Epicurean thinking and way of life was about changing oneself, not others.

by jaskaw @ 16.12.2009 - 17:15:56 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/16/epicurus-on-pain-of-body-or-mind-7585183/

Epicurus on living justly
"It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably and justly without living pleasantly. Whenever any one of these is lacking, when, for instance, the man is not able to live wisely, though he lives honorably and justly, it is impossible for him to live a pleasant life." - Epicurus (Principal Doctrines, 5)

There are striking similarities is Epicurean thinking to the earliest original Buddhist school of thought. It has been also suggested that there is a possibility of certain Buddhist influences reaching Epicurus in his time. Even if there exists no direct evidence of such influences, there are striking similarities in their basic approach to life in complex and evolved societies. On the other hand, I do suspect that when one starts really in earnest thinking and analyzing life in a more evolved and complex human society, one can end up thinking very similarly in different parts of the world at the same time, if the state of development of the societies is similar enough. Humans are after all at the base very similar products of the same evolutionary processes everywhere, even if cultural developments and artifacts can hide this very basic fact from clear view. The modern Buddhist approach is of course in many ways also very different form the Epicurean world-view. On the other hand the Buddhist influences that could have reached Epicurus in time must have been very original and early ones. They need to from the time before the the layers upon layers of cultural sediments that did eventually come to cover the original ideas in modern Buddhism. It is extremely easy to forget that the original ideas of Gautama Buddha did not necessitate the existence of deities or supernatural phenomena of any kind. However, century after century of new layers and most of all of new loans from most of all Hinduism have added new supernatural features to the original quite atheistic Buddhism. In fact it can be claimed that the original thoughts presented by Gautama Buddha in India were quite similar guides for achieving personal happiness, as were the a bit later principles presented by Epicurus in Greece. One does not need to believe in any kind of deity or gods or even any kind of supernatural forces to be able follow the Epicurean path, as it is just all about acquiring a new way for seeing ones own true needs more

clearly. I do think that this way quite similar to the original message of Gautama Buddha also.

by jaskaw @ 17.12.2009 - 00:35:25 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/16/epicurus-on-living-justly-7587276/

Marcus Aurelius on good and evil
"Life is neither good or evil, but only a place for good and evil. " - Marcus Aurelius

I think Marcus Aurelius is implying here a very basic fact of life; our life is what we make of it, even if his main idea for me is to say that humans themselves do decide what is good and what is bad, but nature itself does not make moral judgments. I see that with this idea goes also the thought that our life is not predestined to be a good or bad one, even if there are a lot of circumstances where we can control very little what happens to us. However, we can always try to make the best of also of the raw deals that life does throw at us. Of course one should not forget that we can never have complete control over our own lives. We are also forced into doing many things because of the needs and demands of our environment. This can also mean that a person can be a vehicle for good, but also and for bad in due to different circumstances and different environments in his life. Ultimately the very same actions can also be classified as as good or bad in different times. In my mind Marcus Aurelius is basically saying here that there is no absolute 'natural' morality. I personally do see that this implies that 'good' and 'bad' are things that are decided by humans themselves according to the needs of the human society. However, in my my mind he is also saying here, that definite ideas of 'good' and 'bad' do exist and also need to exist. I do think that only by the very act of defining them we can create the rules that can keep our societies hospitable for humans.

by jaskaw @ 17.12.2009 - 21:19:13 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/17/marcus-aurelius-on-good-and-evil-7591754/

John Ruskin on consequences of beliefs
"What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do." - John Ruskin

I do think that John Ruskin was referring here to the simple fact that things that are going on just in our minds do not at the end really matter, if they are ever translated into a any kind of real world action and if we do not even ever vocalize them. Only our talk and actions do really matter to other people and others are normally left in the dark about the real motives and reasons for our actions, even when we do talk or act. In real world other people can normally make judgments on us based only on things that we say and things that we do. In the end only we do know the real motives for our noble or distasteful actions. The situation is course made even more complicated by the fact that we can very easily lie also to ourselves and we may hide our real motives even from ourselves. I know this is a very difficult concept indeed for very many of those who are steeped in the Jewish, Christian or Islamic thinking. One of the very central tenets of all of these models of faith is that a impure or immoral thought it the same thing as a impure or immoral action. I do think that this is because this is a very central part of a grand strategy of these religions, as every single person walking on this earth will have impure and immoral thoughts at some point of their life. These religions can then build a ballast of unnecessary guilt, that they can exploit to their great advantage based on this very simple fact of life. The quite automatic building up of this load of guilt is made possible first and foremost by the extremely stringent sexual code that is inbuilt in all of these Abrahamic religions. No normal person can live his or her life without having thoughts of sexual nature that would not be strictly forbidden by these religions. When a religion makes one believe that these thought are a mortal sin and only the religion in question can redeem one from them,, these religions have created a fool-proof win-win situation for themselves. Of course on the other hand a good intention is just a good intention if it is not followed by

action, be the person at question a good socialist or a fervent Christian. The other side of the coin is that a person can really absolutely honestly himself believe that he adheres to a religion full of absolute love for ones neighbors, but he can kill them because of their lack of faith in this love for ones neighbors. I would claim that in situations like this the things that we claim to believe are of little consequence and the only important thing is what we really do.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Ruskin

by jaskaw @ 18.12.2009 - 12:33:16 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/18/john-ruskin-on-beliefs-and-action-7597250/

Marcus Aurelius on loving those who wrong you
"It is man's peculiar duty to love even those who wrong him." - Marcus Aurelius

I see that the main importance of this thought is in reminding how the ability to continue living and acting with people that you feel have wronged you at some point of your life is a very important thing for people living in a complex modern society. Nobody really knows where life will take us and the adversary of today can well become the trusted friend of tomorrow. The other side of the coin is of course the extremely human and also common ability to take offense of things that other people do not mean and think of as offensive themselves. One can so very easily feel that he or she is even deeply wronged, even if in real life these wrong-doings are quite imagined. This is of course my own interpretation, but I really do see also this idea in the terse sentence created by Marcus Aurelius. A very basic fact of life in modern complex societies is mentally extremely demanding, when a multitude of different kinds of social interactions creates possibility for friction and conflicts all the time. I would even say that the ability to get over the social problems one encounters is a very basic survival skill in a modern society. I see that Marcus Aurelius is in fact just giving here a very basic recipe for success in social interaction. I well understand how this quote can cause a primitive reaction in people familiar with the Christian way of thinking, but who have rejected it. The basic idea here is of course very similar to the Christian call for 'loving thy enemies', which is one of the most hypocritical statements in the history of religions. I see the Christian idea as a thing that can give one a comfortable feeling of moral superiority, even if it is quite impossible to put in practice.

A enemy is normally interpreted as a person who intentionally wants to hurt you and will go on doing so in the future also. In practice really loving or even forgiving such people is well nigh impossible, as long as they want to hurt you. I think that the way Marcus Aurelius puts the quite same idea is more about forgiving and forgetting the individual wrong-doings (imagined or real) of others, as Marcus Aurelius speaks about actions, not classes of humans. Christians do put some people in a category of 'enemies' when Marcus Aurelius is more talking about ones relationship with individual actions, which is in my view a quite different thing. I do think that Marcus Aurelius is much deeper in the core of the matter. I think that his idea is one that can have practical implications also, when the Christian idea is just presenting of a admirable, but in practice quite unachievable ultimate goal.

by jaskaw @ 19.12.2009 - 22:10:55 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/19/marcus-aurelius-on-loving-your-enemies-7607681/

Bertrand Russell on the authority of the sacred books
"Deduction from inspired books is the method of arriving at truth employed by jurists, Christians, Mohammedans and Communists. Since deduction as a means of obtaining knowledge collapses when doubt is thrown upon its premises, those who believe in deduction must necassarily be bitter against men who question the authority of the sacred books." - Bertrand Russell in "The Scientific Outlook" (1931)

I know that it seems odd that Bertrand Russell has added jurists to this company, but the difference between deduction and induction is the thing that is important here and not the quality of the texts in which people base their deductions. Laws are of course in many ways a different thing than the purely ideological texts like the Bible or Das Kapital, but the basic idea is deriving the right answers just from the existing texts. Laws are of course created by humans to protect human societies, but the thing here is that they are not based on any kind of higher and absolute 'natural law'. A true professional jurist is not really concerned with if a thing is really humanly right or wrong, but just what the current law says about it, and these can be and often have been quite different things. So the the laws that did make Jews second class citizens in the Germany of 1930's were quite valid laws that were created through a quite ordinary democratic and legal process. The only problem was of course that they were humanly absolutely wrong. A German jurist in the 30's however would not commonly have seen this contradiction, as he or she would just be busy deducting the right legal answers from the official version of the current law. However, there is no judgment of value in the original quote but Bertrand Russell, but it is all about the system of deduction, where new things like new court decisions or stands in moral issues are derived from existing texts. The quote does not say at all that having laws would be a bad thing at all, but it is about the way the legal system inevitably always works, as it is the only way it really can work in a advanced human society. In a democracy at least laws can of course be altered if they are found to be unjust by a big enough majority.

However, until they are changed even unjust laws however do bind the legal system as well as just laws, as there would not be any point in having a rigid legal system in the first place if it would not be so. I do not see that Bertrand Russell would be demanding the abolition of the modern system of law. In my mind he is just pointing out that the way how any legal system inevitably works is by deduction and by using the existing laws as a basis for decisions. Laws are in the end not created inductively by creating theories or 'scientific laws' from observing the phenomena of nature and real world in general, as the modern science is. Legal system and laws are created to fulfill the needs of the current society. They do change when the needs of the society do change, when science changes when our real knowledge of the world changes.

by jaskaw @ 24.12.2009 - 10:59:03 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/24/bertrand-russell-on-the-authority-of-sacred-books-7633976/

Thomas Paine on approval of slavery in religions
"Most shocking of all is alledging the sacred scriptures to favour this wicked practice. One would have thought none but infidel cavillers would endeavour to make them appear contrary to the plain dictates of natural light, and the conscience, in a matter of common Justice and Humanity; which they cannot be." - Thomas Paine in "African Slavery In America" (1774)

Thomas Paine is of course talking about Christian holy books here, but also the holy book of Islam has also nothing at all against slavery and in fact just gives good advice on how slaves should be treated. Also the Christian Bible is of course choke full of passages in which the angry god of the Israelites gives his direct support for the tradition of human slavery. Only when the basic humanist ideas of equality of all humans and undeniable human rights took hold in the western Europe and later in America did the Christian churches one after one drop their support for the evil institution of slavery. The spread of humanist ideas did bring also many Christians to the fight for abolition of slavery, even if their holy book had nothing against it. However, the change in the zeitgeist or the spirit of time did eventually change also the Christian religions in this respect. Only the international pressure coming from these countries where the humanist ideas of equality had already triumphed made the Islamic slave-traders stop their horrid commerce in eastern Africa. It should also be remembered that this happened a long time after slave trade had been forbidden and effectively stopped in Europe and America. Islamic nations were universally the last ones to ban that evil institution and this always happened because of the pressure coming from the western more secular nations. Slavery is according to many reliable sources in fact still widespread in the darker corners of the most backward parts of Islamic world. Historically, all of the major schools of Islam have traditionally always accepted the institution of slavery. Muhammad and many of his companions bought, sold, freed, and captured slaves.In Islamic law the topic of slavery is covered at great length. The Qur'an, their holy book, and the hadith or the revered sayings of Muhammad deal with slavery at length. For example, according to Muhammed children of slaves or non-Muslim prisoners of war can become slaves, but not freeborn Muslim. The islamic slavery resulted also in massive importation of slaves into Islamic lands, which involved

enormous suffering and loss of life in the capture and transportation of slaves from non-Muslim lands. According to some estimates at least 17 million black Africans were enslaved in Arab slave trade. As recently as in the 1950s, Saudi Arabia's slave population was estimated at 450,000 persons. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_slave_trade

by jaskaw @ 26.12.2009 - 01:01:06 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/25/thomas-paine-on-religious-approval-of-slavery-7641130/

Walter Lippmann on dangers of thinking alike
"Where all men think alike, no one thinks very much." - Walter Lippmann

I'm afraid that the suppression of different ways thinking is and will always be a property of strong ideologies that claim to represent any kind of absolute truth. It is always at its worst when there is a single ruling ideology in a society and this ideology is based on mystical or other ways irrational claims that are vulnerable to rational analysis. Christianity, Islam and Communism are very much partners in crime in this respect. Of course also cults and other minor ideologies are breeding grounds for this narrowing of thinking. However, they tend to have a fraction of the impact that the ideologies working on a state-wide level have had and still have. In Athens of the antiquity there was no such single overwhelming religious ideology and there was a tremendous outburst of new ideas. In fact humanity had never seen its like before. Only the rise of the uniform and extremely dogmatic Christianity in Rome did effectively put an end the the golden age of philosophy and new thinking. For over a millennium there was just one allowed ideology one allowed way to think in most of the Europe. Accordingly there was extremely little of new thinking, as all men just thought quite alike and the result was stagnated societies. The power of mentally extremely suffocating Christianity finally receded in the Western Europe in the 17th and 18th century under the pressure from the new kind of humanistic and secular forces in society. The net result of this development was a veritable influx of fresh new thinking which produced a unprecedented level of progress. I would in fact boldly claim that just this opening of minds was even the main ingredient for the ultimate success of the modern Western societies over societies where more uniform and dogmatic ideologies did still hold sway. I would go as far as to say that the simple fact that the Islamic world was reduced into state of submission to the western powers in the 19th and 20th centuries was largely due to the simple fact that the Islamic world did not have the same kind of mental opening as western world did go through. I would also predict that the Islamic world will not catch up with the western world before

they have undergone similar breaking of the power of the dogmatic and mentally extremely limiting religion over the minds of people living in the Islamic lands. This is quite possible, of course, even if it does not seem likely just now. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Lippmann

by jaskaw @ 27.12.2009 - 23:36:02 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/27/walter-lippmann-on-thinking-alike-7649181/

Anaxagoras on ownership
"Men would live exceedingly quiet if these two words, mine and thine, were taken away." - Anaxagoras (c. 500 BC 428 BC)

The idea that claimed ownership of things (and also of humans) is the source of most of the friction, problems and difficulties in the human societies was not invented by Karl Marx at all. This fact has been clear to many thinking men for millennium, even if the stark fact is that there really is nothing much that we can do to remedy this problem. Our societies just are so strongly based on this idea that has been with us for tens of thousands of years, after this new concept of personally and permanently owning even things like land saw light in the first agricultural societies. A hunter-gatherer can really own only the things he or she can carry, but in a stable agricultural societies the land that was cultivated and things needed in cultivating it soon becomes permanent and inherited property. One could also from the beginning fight over the right for the ownership and the problems associated with the idea of ownership did soon also arise. In my mind Anaxagoras is not saying that it would be possible to abolish the idea of ownership, but he is just noticing the inevitable consequences that come with the idea of ownership. Of course one needs a bit of flexibility to even understand that the idea of permanent and hereditary ownership of things really is only a quite recent human idea and not a permanent and inevitable property of those things themselves. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anaxagoras

by jaskaw @ 28.12.2009 - 21:44:33 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/28/anaxagoras-on-ownership-7653362/

Diax on beliefs and truth
"Never believe a thing simply because you want it to be true." - Diax

The grim reality is of course that very many of the things we choose to believe to be true we do believe just because of the simple fact that we just so very much would want them to be true. Comforting and soothing lies are always more tempting and easier to accept than the often all too grim reality. It is for example extremely tempting to believe that there is life after death or all the bad things we have done will be forgiven, if we just choose to believe in a certain religious ideology. PS. A place for a confession here; I do not have a faintest idea who this Diax is, but the quote would be a good one, even if I had invented it myself. The best guess is that Diax is just a fictional character in the Neal Stephenson's science-fiction novel 'Anathem'.

by jaskaw @ 30.12.2009 - 21:49:40 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/12/30/diax-on-beliefs-and-truth-7664404/

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About the author
jaskaw (Jaakko Wallenius), male, 52 years old, Lohja, , speaks Finnish (FI) (English version at bottom) Uusi ja yllättävä tieto on aina ollut minulle ylivoimaisesti parasta viihdettä. Rakkaus historiaan syttyi jo kansankouluaikana, mutta viime vuosina melkoisesti aikaa on vienyt myös tietotekniikkaan syventyminen. Opiskelin aikoinaan historiaa, sosiologiaa ja valtio-oppia, mutta lyhyeksi jäänyt poliittinen ura vei miehen pian mukanaan. Jo yli 20 vuotta sitten alkoi nykyinen taloustoimittajan ura. Asun pienessä omakotitalossa pienessä kaupungissa vaimon, kahden koiran, kahden lapsen ja viime laskun mukaan 14 kalan kanssa. Korjailen toimittajan päätyöni ohella sivutoimisena yrittäjänä hyvien kaupunkilaisten tietokoneita. New information has always been the best form of entertainment for me. My everlasting love for history started at the elementary school at tender age of nine, when I did read the 600 pages of The Pocket World History, admittedly skipping the dull parts about culture... I have studied history, political history, political science and journalism in universities of Turku and Tampere, but have never graduated from neither. A brief but tempestuous political career blew the man prematurely to to wide world from the comforting womb of university. A more steady career in journalism followed and I have been a professional writer and journalist for the past 20 years. At present I live in a small town in a small house with a wife, two not so small teenagers, two middle-sized dogs and 14 fish of various sizes. By day I work as a journalist writing about local economy in our local newspaper. Its a job i have held for the past 20 years. In the evenings and week-ends I repair the computers of the good citizens of our little town as a private entrepreneur.

Own blogs:

bittitohtori.blogs.fi uskoitseesi.blogs.fi hsvahti.blogs.fi beinghuman.blogs.fi Interests: computers, historia, history, pohdiskelu, thinking, tietokoneet, atheistnews.blogs.fi ateismi, atheism, computers, lohja, pohdiskelu, thinking, thelittlebook.blogs.fi User tags: tietokoneet, ikkunat.blogs.fi dayofreason.blogs.fi jaavatty.blogs.fi

Zip: Street: Email: jaakko.wallenius@gmail.com URL: http://www.beinghuman.blogs.fi

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