Friday, February 18, 2005

Fragmenta Philosophica

It's an amazing Web. To verify my understanding of 'lagomorphic,' I put the Google bot to work. It brought me to a rabbit post on the weblog, Fragmenta Philosophica: The Cogitations of Paul Craddick. This is an excerpt from his wonderful statement:

Philosophy is one of the central passions in my life. I was fortunate to major in it at college - “useless” though it is – and I continue to revere it, as a serious avocation. For me, like so many others, the apotheosis of philosophy is exhibited in Plato's portrayal of Socrates.

“Socrates' way of life is the consequence of his recognition that we can know what it is that we do not know about the most important things and that we are by nature obliged to seek that knowledge. We must remain faithful to the bit of light which pierces our circumambient darkness.” (Allan Bloom).

I remember being deeply impressed that Evelyn Waugh prefaced his Robbery Under Law with a warning to readers of the underlying views and possible biases which animated the book. It still seems to me that that is a noble thing to do. In that spirit ...

The world is mysterious in a way which is very difficult to articulate -- both truly terrible and incomprehensibly wonderful. Death is a surd.

We know too much to be skeptics and too little to be dogmatists (Pascal). Hence, in regards to the intensity of most of our convictions (our willingness to revisit and reconsider them), I would argue that “provisional certainty” is what we ought to strive for – a mean between the defective state, wishy-washyness, and the excessive one, fanaticism.

“The life of reason” is an ideal that many pay lip service to, few genuinely esteem, and most fall short of. Though of course there are degrees, there is no fully rational society – rhetoric and coercion are the perennial givens of social life, along with their complements, “bread and circuses.” The last 150 years have shown that the withering away of custom and religion hasn't – to say the least - elevated the average reasonableness of humanity. It seems to me that scientists and specialists are our new priests, and I'm not keen to recite the confession.

Politically, I'm registered as an Independent, and consider myself a libertarian-with-a-lower-case-l. I don't believe that a greater sphere of personal liberty would by any means be a painless or perfect curative for various societal ills, but I am strongly drawn to a system which weds maximal rights to responsibilities (consequences), and creates a protected sphere for the culturally antinomian individual. I am not a conservative -- although in my dissent I do respect certain strains of old-style conservatism – and would be glad to call myself a “liberal,” when/if the current users of the term give it back.

I am an atheist – but something of a hopeful one. I don't hate institutional religion per se, and I certainly don't believe that all religions are created equal. Were I a believer, I'd likely either be a Jew or a Roman Catholic. To me, the only thing (slightly) more absurd than an atheistic cosmos is a theistic one. Still, I believe that the religious impulse in many ways signifies the highest of human aspiration.