Four twenty five.
I just ordered the Hackett one volume of Plato from Amazon. Free one day shipping. It ought to be a thing of beauty when it arrives in the mail tomorrow night. Around the time I left my job I used my work earnings to buy the Princeton edition of Plato, which I later sold to Tsunami Books— and kicked myself. I had still another copy of it, but the one I bought with my own labor was special, and I sacrificed it to my addiction to alcohol. Plato said that the three most characteristic results of tyranny in the individual are drunkenness, lust, and madness. Therefore it’s significant that I overturned the self discipline of Plato for the tyranny of addiction. I was 41 years old the last time I purchased a one volume Plato, so much younger and more foolish than today.
How does addiction take hold of a person, and how does it go away? It could be a matter of claiming freedom and responsibility in your life; first realizing that you are free, and then taking action. And this revolution happens by dissolving your misconception of determinism, the idea that you are in bondage to nature and natural laws. It actually is to defeat the myth of Freud’s unconscious mind, this thing that drives behavior in spite of your conscious will. Overcome this myth and liberate yourself to endless potential.
It additionally is to overrule the paradigm of Plato’s psychology in the Republic. Maybe there is no “many headed beast” in the human soul. As long as you believe it, you will be a slave to it. Realize your freedom by making the beast unreal. Simply deny it reality and it goes away…
I’m still not hot to trot on getting vaccinated. The Johnson’s vaccine has a problem with causing blood clots, and that’s what they have at Bi Mart. I haven’t been paying much attention to the news lately; I just delete the emails every morning and get on with my day. Heidi is very unwell, she told me yesterday. I was sad to hear about it, and meanwhile the sun blazed down apathetically. For some reason I thought of “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane, a powerful description of nature’s indifference to humankind, very realistic and not at all sugary except for the grace of his excellent prose style. So, Heidi said she’d be back Monday, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s only Tuesday but already I’m anticipating Saturday’s band practice. I hope it happens. I will take my old SX bass, which I’ve had for ten years now. Maybe I’ll tweak it again before the weekend; put a different high mass bridge on it for the best tone… I’m considering getting the Penguin edition of Plato’s Symposium for its treatment of Eros, the spiritual love of beauty. There’s a lot of books to read. And the French poets I have are just amazing. Poetry is great for enhancing the experience of music, and the reverse is also true. I could explore my way through Greek tragedy or perhaps just write in my blank book to have a revelation. It’s interesting how thoughts feed feelings and feelings feed thoughts in the course of a day, taking your mood up or down from moment to moment. It is constant maintenance of your mental state to keep positive and happy.
Ten forty. Trying to organize my thoughts without much success. The sunshine brings out motley instincts, as if I were asleep and dreaming assorted taboos. Probably everyone does this, but I find it quite disturbing to have such nightmares. Which is truer, these impulses or their censorship by reason? And the condition of the individual is analogous to the general population and how it is ruled. I’m a liberal person, so I guess that means more weeds in the garden of society, and pushing the envelope of what is acceptable. It’s a very difficult call. And how long before the logical filter breaks down and madness runs free in your mind and in the streets? Was Plato just paranoid of human nature? Shouldn’t we harmonize with nature within and without ourselves? Who’s to say what is best for the garden and what constitutes a weed?
Since talking with Polly yesterday morning I’ve felt rather confused. According to her, some Christians believe that we’ve already seen the Antichrist, and a lot of other biblical prophecies are coming true. I don’t know what to do with this information. Maybe the safe thing is to file it away and not totally dispose of it. The leap to metaphysics is very hard for me to accept because it defies logic. A neighbor once opined to me that people with schizophrenia are possessed by the devil, and my reaction was to think how ignorant he was, and how mean and insensitive. If everyone believed his way, we schizophrenic people would still be chained in dungeons as in the Dark Ages. Think now: is that any way to treat a human being? This neighbor was a Catholic and a complete dunce, and I was thankful when his family moved away. I don’t know how to feel about religion, except I’ve seen how it can marginalize certain people, even force them into ghettos. It depends on the extremity of the belief.
I think the common denominator ought to be our humanity. The philosophy that makes the most sense to me is utilitarianism, the greatest happiness principle of John Stuart Mill. We should minimize pain for each other and maximize happiness, and all other issues are on the side.
Eleven thirty. I’m very anti Carl Jung and his idea of the collective unconscious, which is founded on something spiritual, sort of like the Hindu Brahman. I guess I’m getting farther away from Eastern thinking, for better or for worse. Carnap reduces a word like “essence” to absurdity because it has no referent in physical reality. I’d forgotten how much Eastern thinking depends on intuition. Jung and Campbell both were steeped in Indian philosophy, and this is a fact I have to respect. I recall the first time I read a sampling of The Upanishads, how it made me feel. The concept of the One was a beautiful thing. “That One Thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature.” This statement in the Rig Veda is entirely intuitive and introspective, but for this reason should we reject it? A whole culture was based on this style of reasoning, so how can it be ruled out as fallacious by a small group of people?
Noon hour. The weather is lightening, with a breakthrough of sunshine. Usually I feel pretty lousy, but my mood today is better than average thanks to the band. We’re going to have fun… There was a dramatic irony in my last post. A point came across that I didn’t intend, yet it stands there in spite of myself, and without my knowledge. Abruptly a shower appears in the sunlight, followed by the newsflash that Trump was acquitted… Wordsworth writes how nature and the mind of man are somehow fitted to each other as part of a divine design. It’s a thrust I can’t rightly parry as the sunshine grows and intensifies.
Ten o’clock. The thinking I do is more logical now, though still scatterbrained and pellmell. Joseph Campbell didn’t come to conclusions at all because his arguments were not logical in the first place. As for metaphysics, this is rooted in the structure of language, and that’s what misguides people. Just because a statement seems to be true by subsisting in language, is it true in reality? This is the problem that people like Carnap sought to solve.
Eleven o’clock. The goal of it all is to reveal the truth, but I’m not a very good philosopher; not systematic enough, and I lack the credentials for it. But in my amateur way I keep trying. Even if I stumbled upon a great epiphany, there would still be the chores to do, though I avoid these as much as possible. Probably I’m better off to just play my bass and leave the intellectual stuff alone, yet I’m hooked on inquiry into life’s mysteries. Whatever I say will say more about me than about the truth. Oscar Wilde wrote that all art is useless, and Sartre said that man is a useless passion. Life may be absurd; perhaps this is the starting point, so Camus was always right, and our job is to create a meaningful existence. Faulkner was there ahead of him, pointing out how we’re lost without stories, the activity of imagination. Thus it’s already a given that life is pointless. It remains for people to make life worth living. A year ago I started rereading The Sound and the Fury; that’s another book I ought to finish, but the plot is quite outrageous and unpleasant. If I can get through the Jason section, the rest should go a bit easier. In my random rambling way I’ll get it done.
My mind is a blank. I was just dreaming about going online and buying a new set of pickups for my bass guitar and finding that they were back ordered. But in reality, I have no shortage of gear; the deficiencies I observe are simply me. I feel that I need things to inspire me when this lack is actually a psychological condition. Why is it satisfying to spend money on myself? It seems like an addiction, “the habit forming need for more and more.”
Meanwhile the housefly that wandered in before the weekend still hasn’t found his way back out— which reminds me of Wittgenstein’s analogy of the fly in the bottle of philosophy. He needs to be shown the way back out. It occurs to me that one can also break the bottle, like Alexander cutting the rope with the Gordian Knot. You can have a loss of philosophical faith, particularly in logic, and make the jump to intuitionism. Sort of like experiencing a psychotic break, when the mind is flooded with mythological content from nowhere. Strong wishes just take over and reality is lost in a waking dream, a dream where your wishes come true.
I’ll be leaving for church in about an hour. Aesop gets his breakfast just before I go. Melissa told me that today is the Super Bowl, and they expect to be slammed with business from a lot of drunken fans. But for the moment that I arrived at the store it was quiet and serene, with no sound but that of the gulls circling over the lot across the road. As I write, the sun has barely begun to ascend and clear the treetops… I was very pleased with my bass gear yesterday, a cheap homemade instrument through a lightweight Fender amp. It sounded really cool.
Eleven twenty five. Church was pretty nice. I got to chat with Lisa after the service, and Sheryl drove me home. Now it’s beginning to hit me how tired I am. If I read Goethe this afternoon, hopefully some of the poetry will rub off on me, because otherwise I feel very uninspired. But there’s no ought to about how a person feels or thinks, thank goodness. Actually I’m more in the mood for a Carnap essay. I wish I could comprehend Bertrand Russell a little better; we seem never to be on the same wavelength. I didn’t care for his little book on epistemology. His approach to it I found unintelligible when I was a student, and it turned me off of philosophy for a whole year.
Noon hour. I have mixed feelings about tithing to the church this morning. I don’t believe I’ll see a divine reward for my contribution. Organized religion is a lot of phony hocus-pocus. Also I took communion today: more smoke and mirrors. You really have to be raised on religion to be able to accept its spiritual content. Mostly I’m a realist and a materialist, but I’m open to a good logical proof for the invisible unknown.
It’s raining a constant patter this morning. I was just out in it to go buy Aesop’s food and something for me. Rain is the stimulus to reflection and odd thoughts and abstractions. Philosophy was born in a rainstorm. I remember traveling from class to class up on campus with an umbrella. You couldn’t survive without one here. The university was a big and diverse place where I felt at home— until the illness showed up and some of the professors derided me. I should write a letter to the president of the university about my bad experience with the English department eleven years ago. They’re always asking alumni for money, but I feel disinclined to give them anything after what I went through. I would feel empowered if I did this… My Snapple tea is already gone and Aesop ate an hour ago. The rain has slackened. Yesterday I ended up buying that book of Mallarme. I’m not quite clear on what his poetry is about, but I think it’s an endeavor at transcendence of the mundane through using symbols. In this way he is a neo Platonist similar to Dickinson. Also like Keats in “Ode to a Nightingale.”
Ten twenty. There’s a lot of ambiguity in my mind today that may never be reduced. During the wee hours I thought of Henry James and his use of subtexts in everyday speech. We often don’t know what we’re communicating to each other unconsciously. What is not said can be louder than what is manifestly spoken, if you subscribe to his vision of reality. But I believe that certain truths of psychology are permanent, or maybe I was brainwashed in college. It’s been a long time since I read any Henry James. No one else seems to be interested in Modern fiction anymore. All things being equal, I might as well brush up on my Modern literature.
Today has been rather a test, yet better than yesterday. I skipped the Snapple tea and felt okay with no caffeine. I did only a little reading out of the same book, an essay by Moritz Schlick of the Vienna Circle. The one by Russell was too difficult for me to follow. Very generally, positivism was concerned with realistic things, kind of like science, and denying the existence of anything beyond the physics; basically, anything you can’t see or sense with your five senses. But then I wonder what the motive was for such a denial of the supernatural. I think they wanted to level everyone down to equality, especially after the Nazis took power in Europe. Frankly, most of the positivists were Jewish and maybe had an axe to grind with the Church and anyone who claimed to be superior in some cultural way— again, like the Nazis and the anti Semitic trend that started with Richard Wagner and other Germans like him. It was absurd for them to say they had the best of everything: women, beer, music, mythology, and the Aryan race of people. I think this was the situation they tried to correct in eliminating statements that were unverifiable. I heard this opinion in a lecture by my old Jewish philosophy professor who once lived in Germany. He escaped from it just before the concentration camps were instituted. This story always impressed me as amazing. Dr Zweig was a good guy. Anyway, the next essay is by Rudolf Carnap and ought to be accessible to me.
Eleven thirty. Now I perceive that my interest in logical positivism is political and historical and relevant to our situation today. The fascism of the departing administration and the attempted coup on democracy, imo, was in many ways like the Nazis. Perhaps the supernaturalism of the extreme right has given it an unfair advantage somehow, in a way I don’t understand, just as no one understands what made Nazism a phenomenon during WW2. But the logical positivists knew what they were doing by leveling everybody to the common denominator and abolishing metaphysics and other outrageous claims to superiority by the Nazis. Hopefully we’ll be wise enough to learn from the precedent of these philosophers and crush infamy before it crushes us.
Nine twenty five.
I left the house for the store at eight thirty, just missing the rain. Before that I called Polly to have a chat. I bought Aesop some original Milk Bones. He was pretty excited to see the red box in my hand when I came in the door… My mind is kind of a blank right now. Last night I urged my pen pal to treat herself to a new book she really wants. She has her eye on a book of bird writing from an online seller. I hope she springs for it today. She deserves a reward just for being herself. I think more people need to spoil themselves a little. We tend to believe we have to rationalize being kind to ourselves, and we feel guilty when we splurge. It depends on our upbringing… I was rather zoned out last night, didn’t realize what I was thinking or saying, but it turned out good. My heart expanded and I was full of benevolence for my friends. To start with, I felt anxious about the well-being of Polly and Roxanne because I hadn’t heard from them in a while. So I called Roxanne to see if she was okay and we talked for a half hour.
Ten twenty five. Probably I was in a reverie yesterday afternoon, hypnotized by the book I’d been pondering. It contains some mathematical logic that’s alien to me, plus some unfamiliar terms and usage. But overall the concern is with truth and language. I keep running into the condition of pessimism regarding what people can know, a hurdle everyone jumps every day anyway without a thought. And being introduced to philosophy is the real trouble, because then you have to find your way out of its problems. Wittgenstein: “Philosophy is the disease for which (philosophy) is the cure.” Most of us get along fine without philosophical complications. I guess I’m not like most people… Honestly, this stuff I had put aside and forgotten about for many years. My sense of smell remembers the reek of burning mint fields when I was 21. After taking Aristotle in the winter I had a loss of philosophical faith. I just turned to intuition and irrationalism like the existentialists. Soon my mind melted down completely. Is it possible to live without logic? Seems you can exist on Romantic feeling and take things on faith…