Tag Archives: philosophy

Quote of the day

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“Uniformity in the opinions expressed by teachers is not only not to be sought, but is, if possible, to be avoided, since diversity of opinion among preceptors is essential to any sound education. No man can pass as educated who has heard only one side on questions as to which the public is divided. One of the most important things to teach in educational establishments of a democracy is the power of weighing arguments, and the open mind which is prepared in advance to accept whichever side appears the more reasonable.”

Bertrand Russel (philosopher and Nobel Prize winner) – in an essay called “Freedom and the Colleges”, 1940.

#education #pluralism #freedom #opinion

Podge and his book from the sky – A fable

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Once upon a time there was a badger. We’ll call him Podge, because that’s what his friends called him. Podge was an intrepid and adamant little badger and he liked to roam the neighborhood at length, looking for fellow creatures to pester – or to snack on.

On one of his nocturnal foraging trips, Podge went a little further than usual and pretty soon came across an animal he had never seen before. An animal so different from himself.

‘What a strange animal… !’ Podge thought and drew closer. ‘Too large to eat and very funny-looking.’

In fact, this animal was so bizarre that, in the dark, Podge couldn’t really tell which end was the head.

‘Hi,’ he said. ‘My name is Podge and I’m a badger. What are you?’

At first there was no answer, so he tried again.

‘Hi,’ he repeated. ‘My name is Podge and I’m a badger. What are you?’

The strange animal stirred.

‘Why are you talking to my tail?’

‘Oh, sorry,’ Podge said and came trotting around to the other end.

And indeed, upon closer inspection, he was now able to make out a long, thin snout and a pair of ears.

‘I have never seen an animal like you. What are you, exactly?’ Podge asked.

‘What do you mean? I am me. I am who I am. Do you want to be friends?’

‘I guess, but… what are you?’ he insisted.

‘I don’t understand. Why do I have to be something in particular?’

‘Well, we’re all something. We all have to be something.’

‘Why?’

‘Just to know what we are. To know where we belong.’

‘ Well, I may not know what I am, but I still know who I am. I’m me. Isn’t that enough?’

‘But… but all the creatures in the world need to know what they are!’ Podge spluttered.

‘Why?’

‘I’m not exactly sure, but I am very pleased to know what I am and what everything around me is. I know what is food, friend, or foe. It’s easier to play with things when you know what they are.’

‘Hm,’ the other creature said incredulously and walked on, snout to the ground.

‘Aren’t you curious what I am?’

‘You’re someone who calls his friends thing names.’

But Podge didn’t hear.

‘I’m a badger,’ he pronounced proudly and confidently.

‘Says who?’

‘Everyone I know.’

‘Badger,’ muttered the creature. ‘That’s just a sound. It means nothing to me. But if you’re fond of this sound, so be it, you will be the Badger.’

‘And you? What are you?’

‘I already told you. I’m me. Why are you so obsessed with categories?’

Podge went home and found it extremely hard to fall asleep. It bothered him. He did not know where to place this creature he had met. And what should he call it? The following night he went back determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. He packed his sacred book and a flashlight. For hours on end he looked at the creature, looked at himself, then leafed back and forth through his book. It was morning already. The sun was up. He was getting tired. Finally, he exclaimed:

‘I know! I know what you are! You’re an aardvark!’ He was so relieved.

‘You think so?’

‘I know so!’

‘How do you know?’

‘Because my book says so, look!’ he said and pointed to a picture on a page that said “Aardvarks”.

‘And how does the book know I’m an aardvark? Maybe they just had to come up with a name and didn’t know any better.’

‘Oh, no, no, no. Not a chance. This book knows everything there is to know. It’s a magical book. And it’s always right.’

‘Really? How do you know that?’ the aardvark asked again.

‘Well, because this book came to us directly from the sky!’

‘No kidding…’

‘Yes, yes. I found it myself one morning on the forest floor. There was nobody else around, and it’s too heavy for our birds to carry. So, it must have fallen from the sky!’

‘Hm,’ the creature muttered again and tried to sniff out some ants.

‘You eat ants! Perfect, that’s perfect. You’re a good aardvark!’

‘How do you know I’m a good aardvark?’

‘Because that’s just what my book says you’re supposed to eat!’

‘I also eat cucumber,’ the aardvark replied.

‘Oh no, you really shouldn’t!’ Podge retorted with a worried look on his face.

‘Why not?’

‘Because my book says nothing about cucumbers. That means you’re probably not allowed to eat them. Oh boy, why do you have to eat cucumbers? What is wrong with you? It’s so unnatural.. You should eat termites!’

‘Hm,’ the aardvark said. ‘I had no idea there was something wrong with me until just now. But I do eat termites rather frequently,’ he apologized.

‘Oh, good!’

‘I’m curious,’ the aardvark inquired. ‘Do you always do what the book says?’

‘Oh yes, always!’

‘And what does your book say about badgers?’

‘A badger is a short-legged nocturnal omnivore,’ Podge read solemnly.

‘Nocturnal, huh? Then how come you are up and about after daybreak?’ the aardvark wanted to know.

Podge blushed, felt guilty and fell silent. He picked up his things and scurried home to sleep on it.

‘What a strange animal… !’ the aardvark thought. ‘He walks around at night with only one book and a tiny flashlight, yet claims to know what everything is…’

Quote of the day

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On sex education:

“There is no sound reason, of any sort or kind, for concealing facts when talking to children. Their questions should be answered and their curiosity satisfied in exactly the same way in regard to sex as in regard to the habits of the fishes, or any other subject that interests them. (…)

The child who is told what he wants to know, and allowed to see his parents naked, will have no pruriency and no obsession of a sexual kind. Boys who are brought up in official ignorance think and talk much more about sex than boys who have always heard this topic treated on a level with any other. (…) All ignorance is regrettable, but ignorance on so important a matter as sex is a serious danger. (…)

Speaking not only from theory, but from practical experience, I am convinced that complete openness on sexual subjects is the best way to prevent children from thinking about them excessively, nastily or unwholesomely, and also the almost indispensable preliminary to an enlightened sexual morality.”

Bertrand Russel – Our Sexual Ethics (first published in 1936!)

Quote of the day

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Some kind of philosophy is a necessity to all but the most thoughtless, and in the absence of knowledge it is almost sure to be a silly philosophy. The result of this is that the human race becomes divided into rival groups of fanatics, each group firmly persuaded that its own brand of nonsense is sacred truth, while the other side’s is damnable heresy. (…)

Dogmatism is an enemy to peace, and an insuperable barrier to democracy. In the present age, at least as much as in former times, it is the greatest of the mental obstacles to human happiness. The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man, but it is nevertheless an intellectual vice. (…)

But so long as men are not trained to withhold judgement in the absence of evidence, they will be led astray by cocksure prophets, and it is likely that their leaders will be either ignorant fanatics or dishonest charlatans.”

Bertrand Russel – “Philosophy for Laymen” in Unpopular Essays (English Edition)

#dogmatism #democracy #freedom #ideology #peace #personaldevelopment #philosophy

Quote of the day

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We are now again in an epoch of wars of religion, but a religion is now called an ‘ideology’. At the moment, the Liberal philosophy is felt by many to be too tame and middle-aged: the idealistic young look for something with more bite in it, something which has a definite answer to all their questions, which calls for missionary activity and gives hope of a millennium brought about by conquest. (…)

Our confused and difficult world needs various things if it is to escape disaster, and among these one of the most necessary is that, in the nations which still uphold Liberal beliefs, these beliefs should be wholehearted and profound, not apologetic towards dogmatisms of the Right and of the Left, but deeply persuaded of the value of liberty, scientific freedom, and mutual forbearance.”

Bertrand Russel – “Philosophy and Politics” in Unpopular Essays (English Edition). First published in 1950.

#dogmatism #freedom #liberalism #ideology #personaldevelopment #philosophy

Quote of the day

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“Education, in the sense in which I mean it, may be defined as the formation, by means of instruction, of certain mental habits and a certain outlook on life and the world. (…)

The search for an outside meaning that can compel an inner response must always be disappointed: all “meaning” must be at bottom related to our primary desires, and when they are extinct no miracle can restore to the world the value which they reflected upon it.

The purpose of education, therefore, cannot be to create any primary impulse which is lacking in the uneducated; the purpose can be only to enlarge the scope of those that human nature provides, by increasing the number and variety of attendant thoughts and showing where the most permanent satisfaction is to be found.”

Bertrand Russel – Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays (1910)

Epidemiology

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One epidemic calls forth another
and one infectious protein spawns
infectious thoughts.
Mental representations spreading like viruses.
Unchecked.


Alert! Long lines before inoculation centers.
Demand for fiction is high.
Trust has been thrown off-kilter.
Too little truth produced
to fight this lethal disease.


No medicine as yet against the fever of
conviction.


Maintain a safe distance
and epistemological hygiene.
Refrain from visiting the specters of panic.
To stop the proliferation,
avoid contact.


Stay home, in your consciousness,
and disinfect it.
Regularly.


Specious is bad
for the species.

Questions

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Setting: Catholic religion class at school.

Characters: New teacher – a man. A bunch of 9-year-olds.

Open discussion about covenants. (Based loosely on recollection, don’t shoot the messenger!)


Girl in my daughter’s class, with genuine curiosity: Why are all the priests men? Why are there no women priests?

Teacher, gently: Well, you see, Jesus was a man, and his apostles were men, and…

Several girls in my daughter’s class: But his mother was a woman!

Teacher, full of kindness: Yes, but she could not have brought Jesus into the world without a heavenly Father…

Red-haired girl: He couldn’t have been born without a mother, either.

Teacher, softly: Yes, you’re right… but, maybe, you know, if some priests were women, then the men in church would stop paying attention to God and stare at the pretty priest…

My daughter, mumbling to herself: But the same can be true the other way around. If the priest is handsome…

Boy seated next to my daughter, searching for a solution: Maybe men are just uglier than women!

Red-haired girl: But if the women were really ugly, could they be priests then?

My daughter, musing after class: What if all the priests were women? Then there wouldn’t be any male priests to tempt… 🙂


(Ah, the dilemmas, quandaries and predicaments that arise when children are allowed to think freely. 🙂 Which, thankfully, they are.)

Watch for timelessness instead

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Watch for timelessness instead

a watch is a little

glass prison

for time –

 

where the seconds

serve a life sentence

without the possibility

of parole.

 

people like to wear

captive time

around their wrist.

when all the seconds are numbered and can never escape,

they call the watch good.

 

measuring

heartbeats,

counting down

to the end.

 

I’d like to start a petition

to free time

I’d like to see it

fly

and watch

for timelessness instead.

 

Copyright A. Sepi 2020. All rights reserved

 

 

The Days

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The Days

Remember these days

these brief days

when we walked in groups of one

we gave thanks to the ones who toiled

and our lives touched each other even though our hands didn’t.

 

Remember these days

these brief days

when daddy was no longer at work (yay!)

because people mattered more

than production:

we discovered we had lungs (so fragile)

and the air became breathable.

 

Remember these days

these brief days

with the deafening chants of birds, their speeches, their courtships, their pleas

finally audible,

and how we watched them build nests from our dining room window,

the whole family gathered around the table for once,

the playgrounds locked, quiet,

the streets devoid of the screams of neglected children;

the strange intimacy.

 

Remember these days,

these brief days

when we looked at each other with fear and awe

and doubt and hope and kindness

– but we looked! –

and were on the verge of rediscovering

humanity;

 

A book and a stroll meant the world to us,

we sang on balconies

while deer with unnatural eyes and glistening antlers

wandered into Nara and took the empty metro nowhere.

 

Remember these days

these brief days

when the trees stood erect and reached into the sky while the stock markets fell

(not the other way around)

when the river exhaled a soft haze at dawn before the buzz began,

the buzz of a thousand and one insects.

 

Remember the days

when the engines of destruction stood still for a minute

while food continued to grow out of the dark soil

and we were afloat in the poetry of necessity.

 

Remember these days

for they will not last forever

and maybe, one day, who knows,

they shall be missed.

 

Copyright A. Sepi 2020. All rights reserved