There is thus a certain plausibility to Nietzsches doctrine, though it is dynamite. He maintains in effect that the gulf separating Plato from the average man is greater than the cleft between the average man and a chimpanzee.p. 151 .
Profound experiences stimulate thoughts; but such thoughts do not look very adequate on paper. Writing can be a way of rethinking again and again. In the process of teaching and writing one must constantly consider the thoughts of men with different ideas. And prolonged and ever-new exposure to a wide variety of outlooks — together with the criticism many professors seek from both their students and their colleagues — is a more profound experience than most people realize. It is a long-drawn-out trial by fire, marked by frequent disillusionment, discoveries, and despair, and by a growing regard for honesty, which is surely one of the most difficult of all the virtues to attain. What one comes up with in the end owes quite as much to this continual encounter as it does to any other experience. .
To an even moderately sophisticated and well-read person it should come as no surprise that any religion at all has its hidden as well as its obvious beauties and is capable of profound and impressive interpretations. What is deeply objectionable about most of these interpretations is that they allow the believer to say Yes while evading any No. .
The central question about Christianity concerns Jesus Christ. If he was God in a sense in which no other man has been God, then Christianity is right in some important sense, however Christendom may have failed. To decide whether Jesus was God in some such unique sense, a philosopher cannot forbear to ask just what this claim might mean. If, for example, it does not mean that Jesus of Nazareth knew everything and was all-powerful, it is perplexing what is meant. But a large part of what most Christians mean is surely that Jesus was the best and wisest man of all time; and many Protestants mean no more than that. .
A great deal of theology is like a jigsaw puzzle: the verses of Scripture are the pieces, and the finished picture is prescribed by each denomination with a certain latitude allowed. What makes the game so pointless is that not all pieces have to be used, and any piece that does not fit may be reshaped, provided one says first, this means. That is called exegesis. .
Although Jesus is widely considered mankinds greatest moral teacher, the greatest Christians, not to speak of scholars, have never been able to agree what his moral teachings were. Matthew, and he alone, reports that Jesus said: Let your Yes be Yes, and your No, No. But the four Evangelists agree in ascribing to Jesus evasive and equivocal answers to plain questions, not only those of the high priest and Pilate; and quite generally the Jesus of the New Testament avoids straightforward statements, preferring parables and hyperboles. Some of the parables are so ambiguous that different Evangelists, not to speak of later theologians, offer different interpretations.On concrete moral issues, Jesus can be, and has been, cited on almost all sides. .
The story of Christ remains uncomfortably similar to the saga of the bosss son who works very briefly in the shop, where he makes a great point of his home and is cruelly beaten by some of his fellow workers, before he joins his father as co-chairman of the board and wreaks horrible revenge. This happy end makes most of the Christian martyrs, too, untragic figures. These observations may strike believers as blasphemous, but they might do well to reflect on the manner in which they pass judgment on other religions, and there may be some point in considering how ones own religion must strike those who dont accept it. .
Why, then, do I not accept Judaism? In view of all the things I do not believe, I have no wish to observe the six-hundred-odd commandments and prohibitions that define the traditional Jewish way of life, or to participate in religious services. With most so-called orthodox Jews I have much less in common than with all kinds of other people, Jews and Gentiles. Reform Judaism seems to me to involve compromise, conformism, and the wish to be innocuous. To that extent, it, too, stands opposed to the ethos of the prophets. .
What remains if you give up the great religions? Many people think: only Communism, Nazism, and immorality. But the morality of Socrates, Spinoza, and Hume compares favorably with Augustines, Luthers, and Calvins. And the evil deeds of Communism and Nazism are not due to their lack of belief but to their false beliefs, even as the evil deeds of the Crusaders, Inquisitors, and witch hunters, and Luthers exhortation to burn synagogues and Calvins decision to burn Servetus, were due to their false beliefs. Christianity, like Islam, has caused more wars than it has prevented; and the Middle Ages, when Europe was Christian, were not a period of peace and good will among men. .
The unexamined life is not worth living. . . . If you suppose that there is no consciousness, but a sleep like the sleep of him that is undisturbed even by dreams, death will be an unspeakable gain. Eternity is then only a single night. It would be folly to wish to foist this outlook on everybody. Professors of philosophy discourage and fail a large percentage even of their graduate students and are assuredly not eager to turn all men into philosophers. In philosophy, as in religion, teaching usually involves a loss of dimension; and the Socratic fusion of philosophy and life, critical acumen and passion, laughter and tragic stature is almost unique. .
I am so far quite unable to justify one of my central convictions: that, even if it were possible to make all men happy by an operation or a drug that would stultify their development, this would somehow be an impious crime. This conviction is ultimately rooted in the Mosaic challenge: You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy. .
I do not believe in any afterlife any more than the prophets did, but I dont mind living in a world in which people have different beliefs. Diversity helps to prevent stagnation and smugness; and a teacher should acquaint his students with diversity and prize careful criticism far above agreement. His noblest duty is to lead others to think for themselves. Oddly, millions believe that lack of belief in God, Christ, and Hell leads to inhumanity and cruelty, while those who have these beliefs have a monopoly on charity — and that people like myself will pay for their lack of belief by suffering in all eternity. I do not believe that anybody will suffer after death nor do I wish it. .
Man seems to play a very insignificant part in the universe, and my part is surely negligible. The question confronting me is not, except perhaps in idle moments, what part might be more amusing, but what I wish to make of my part. And what I want to do and would advise others to do is to make the most of it: put into it all you have got, and live and, if possible, die with some measure of nobility. .
Listing articles of faith, of course, would not do. Articles of faith are meant for groups of people: they are begotten by the need for ritual and mothered by the need for compromise. They reduce the believer to exegesis—unless he denies one of the articles and becomes a heretic. A heretic wants no articles of faith.Section 3 p. 10 .
Every book and every discussion presuppose the will to be honest. The man who repudiates honesty repudiates discussion. There is no point in dialogue with a man who does not acknowledge this standard.Section 3 p. 11 .
Neither a lack of passion nor the anxious dissimulation of every personal element is either required or sufficient for intellectual honesty.Rather, the single most important factor is a sustained willingness to consider informed objections.Section 4 p. 12; ellipsis added .
Clearly, these men Kaufmann is referring to the pre-Socratic philosophers were heretics. They not only opposed the common sense of their time and some of the most revered names of the past but they did not presume to speak in the name of the Lord or to interpret correctly a previously misunderstood tradition. They pitted their own thinking against the religion and the poetry they knew. And by breaking with the exegetic mode of thought and every other form of appeal to authority, they initiated philosophy.Section 5 p. 15 .
Surely, most students and professors do waste an enormous quantity of time and effort; but at his best a teacher transmits something more than information: the student discovers the techniques and joys of critical thinking.Section 6 p. 20 .
The aim of a liberal education is not to turn out ideal dinner guests who can talk with assurance about practically everything, but people who will not be taken in by men who speak about all things with an air of finality. The goal is not to train future authorities, but men who are not cowed by those who claim to be authorities. The alternative to gullibility is not lack of respect for competence but the ability to find out who is competent and who is not.Section 6 pp. 21-22 .
Attitudes toward authority carry over into politics, and a people who suspect political authoritarianism and who cherish their own freedom can ill afford to tolerate authoritarianism in their education.Section 6 p. 22 .
Ever since the days of ancient Athens, there have been a multitude of men who have looked askance upon philosophy because it is not pious, positive, and patriotic. Socrates and Plato compared the philosopher to a physician. One might add that one of the functions of philosophy is to inoculate men against bigotry, inhumanity, and propaganda by teaching them to think carefully, conscientiously, and critically.Section 6 p. 22 .
There are few things about which people are less honest than their attitude toward honesty. Everybody claims to favor it and to consider it important, and an open accusation of dishonesty is a heinous, actionable insult. Yet our public life is permeated by a staggering tolerance for quite deliberate dishonesty.Section 8 p. 25 .
The great progress in the sciences has made many traditional beliefs, tenets, and assumptions highly problematic, if not untenable. As a result, some theologians have reinterpreted many old beliefs—to the point where some thoughtful people have begun to wonder what, if any, meaning remains. The old beliefs were clear, but are now given up as false; the reinterpreted beliefs, which are said to be immune to all scientific advances, are often highly elusive and perhaps in some instances mere formulas devoid of any clear content.Section 14 pp. 49-50 .
One of the most important parts of any education is to learn to understand views different from one’s own and to outgrow the narrow-mindedness and lack of intellectual imagination that cling to us from our childhood.Section 14 p. 57 .
The Greeks had considered hope the final evil in Pandoras box. They also gave us an image of perfect nobility: a human being lovingly doing her duty to another human being despite all threats, and going to her death with pride and courage, not deterred by any hope — Antigone.Death, p. 371, Excerpt online .
Hopelessness is despair. Yet life without hope is worth living. As Sartres Orestes says: Life begins on the other side of despair. But is hope perhaps resumed on the other side? It need not be. In honesty, what is there to hope for? Small hopes remain but do not truly matter. I may hope that the sunset will be clear, that the night will be cool and still, that my work will turn out well, and yet know that nine hopes out often are not even remembered a year later. How many are recalled a century hence? A billion years hence?Death, p. 371 .
There may be surprises in store for us, however improbable it seems and however little evidence suggests it. But I do not hope for that. Let people who do not know what to do with themselves in this life, but fritter away their time reading magazines and watching television, hope for eternal life. If one lives intensely, the time comes when sleep seems bliss. If one loves intensely, the time comes when death seems bliss. Those who loved with all their heart and mind and might have always thought of death, and those who knew the endless nights of harrowing concern for others have longed for it. The life I want is a life I could not endure in eternity. It is a life of love and intensity, suffering and creation, that makes life worthwhile and death welcome. There is no other life I should prefer. Neither should I like not to die.Death, p. 372 .
If I ask myself who in history I might like to have been, I find that all the men I most admire were by most standards deeply unhappy. They knew despair. But their lives were worthwhile — I only wish mine equaled theirs in this respect and I have no doubt that they were glad to die. As one deserves a good nights sleep, one also deserves to die, Why should I hope to wake again? To do what I have not done in the time Ive had? All of us have so much more time than we use well. How many hours in a life are spent in a way of which one might be proud, looking back?Death, p. 372 .
Lives are spoiled and made rotten by the sense that death is distant and irrelevant. One lives better when one expects to die, say, at forty, when one says to oneself long before one is twenty: whatever I may be able to accomplish, I should be able to do by then; and what I have not done by then, I am not likely to do ever. One cannot count on living until one is forty or thirty but it makes for a better life if one has a rendezvous with death. Not only can love be deepened and made more intense and impassioned by the expectation of impending death; all of life is enriched by it. Why deceive myself to the last moment, and hungrily devour sights, sounds, and smells only when it is almost too late? In our treatment of others, too, it is well to remember that they will die: it makes for greater humanity.Death, p. 373 .
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