Ego

The adult’s ego-feeling cannot have been the same from the beginning. It must have gone through a process of development, which cannot, of course, be demonstrated but which admits of being constructed with a fair degree of probability. An infant at the breast does not as yet distinguish his ego from the external world as the source of the sensations flowing in upon him. He gradually learns to do so, in response to various promptings. He must be very strongly impressed by the fact that some sources of excitation, which he will later recognize as his own bodily organs, can provide him with sensations at any moment, whereas other sources evade him from time to time — among them what he desires most of all, his mother’s breast — and only reappear as a result of his screaming for help.

In this way there is for the first time set over against the ego an “object”, in the form of something which exists “outside” and which is only forced to appear by a special action. A further incentive to a disengagement of the ego from the general mass of sensations — that is, to the recognition of an “outside”, an external world — is provided by the frequent, manifold and unavoidable sensations of pain and unpleasure the removal and avoidance of which is enjoined by the pleasure principle, in the exercise of its unrestricted domination. A tendency arises to separate from the ego everything that can become a source of such unpleasure, to throw it outside and to create a pure pleasure-ego which is confronted by a strange and threatening “outside”.

One comes to learn a procedure by which, through a deliberate direction of one’s sensory activities and through suitable muscular action, one can differentiate between what is internal — what belongs to the ego — and what is external — what emanates from the outer world. In this way one makes the first step towards the introduction of the reality principle which is to dominate future development.

In this way, then, the ego detaches itself from the external world. Or, to put it more correctly, originally the ego includes everything, later it separates off an external world from itself. Our present ego-feeling is, therefore, only a shrunken residue of a much more inclusive — indeed, an all-embracing — feeling which corresponded to a more intimate bond between the ego and the world about it.

Sigmund Freud – Civilization and Its Discontents

Introduction

It is natural to suppose that, before philosophy enters upon its subject proper−namely, the actual knowledge of what truly is−it is necessary to come first to an understanding concerning knowledge, which is looked upon as the instrument by which to take possession of the Absolute, or as the means through which to get a sight of it.

This apprehensiveness is sure to pass even into the conviction that the whole enterprise which sets out to secure for consciousness by means of knowledge what exists per se, is in its very nature absurd; and that between knowledge and the Absolute there lies a boundary which completely cuts off the one from the other. For if knowledge is the instrument by which to get possession of absolute Reality, the suggestion immediately occurs that the application of an instrument to anything does not leave it as it is for itself, but rather entails in the process, and has in view, a moulding and alteration of it.

Or, again, if knowledge is not an instrument which we actively employ, but a kind of passive medium through which the light of the truth reaches us, then here, too, we do not receive it as it is in itself but as it is through and in this medium. In either case we employ a means which immediately brings about the very opposite of its own end.

Or, again, fear of the truth may conceal itself from itself and others behind the pretext that precisely burning zeal for the very truth makes it so difficult, nay impossible, to find any other truth except that of which alone vanity is capable − that of being ever so much cleverer than any ideas, which one gets from oneself or others, could make possible.

This sort of conceit which understands how to belittle every truth and turn away from it back into itself, and gloats over this its own private understanding, which always knows how to dissipate every possible thought, and to find, instead of all the content, merely the barren Ego − this is a satisfaction which must be left to itself; for it flees the universal and seeks only an isolated existence on its own account.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel – The Fenomenology of Spirit

Form of Appearance

It will first be necessary to explain as distinctly as possible our opinion in regard to the fundamental constitution of sensible cognition in general, in order to preclude all misinterpretation of it.

We have therefore wanted to say that all our intuition is nothing but the representation of appearance; that the things that we intuit are not in themselves what we intuit them to be, nor are their relations so constituted in themselves as they appear to us; and that if we remove our own subject or even only the subjective constitution of the senses in general, then all the constitution, all relations of objects in space and time, indeed space and time themselves would disappear, and as appearances they cannot exist in themselves, but only in us.

What may be the case with objects in themselves and abstracted from all this receptivity of our sensibility remains entirely unknown to us. We are acquainted with nothing except our way of perceiving them, which is peculiar to us, and which therefore does not necessarily pertain to every being, though to be sure it pertains to every human being. We are concerned solely with this.

Through sensibility we do not cognize the constitution of things in themselves merely indistinctly, but rather not at all, and, as soon as we take away our subjective constitution, the represented object with the properties that sensible intuition attributes to it is nowhere to be encountered, nor can it be encountered, for it is just this subjective constitution that determines its form as appearance.

Immanuel Kant – Critique of Pure Reason

No Proxy

What is the truth of Prophetism which lays down that God can be known only indirectly through a favourite intermediary, a ‘Sole Begotten Son’ or a ‘Last Prophet’? Indian spirituality did not argue, debate or oppose. But did it not provide a complete answer? It proclaimed that the true Godhead was beyond number and count; that it had many manifestations which did not exclude or repel each other but included each other and went together in friendship; that it was approached in different ways and through many symbols; that it resided in the heart of its devotees.

A fateful thing has been happening. The East is waking up from its slumber. The wisdom of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism is becoming available to the world. Already, it is having a transforming effect on the minds of the people, particularly in countries where there is freedom to seek and express. Dogmas are under a cloud; claims on behalf of Last Prophethood and Only Sonship, hitherto enforced through great intellectual conditioning, browbeating, and the big stick, are becoming unacceptable.

Religions of proxy are in retreat. More and more men now seek authentic experience. Borrowed creed will not do. Men and women are ceasing to be obedient believers and are becoming seekers. They no longer want to be anybody’s sheep, now that they know that they can be their own shepherds. An external authority, even when it is called God in certain scriptures, threatening and promising alternately, is increasingly making less and less impression; people now realize that Godhead is their own true, secret status and they seek it in the depth of their own being.

Ram Swarup – Hindu View of Christianity and Islam

Hide-and-Seek

Here’s a parable, an analogy, which comes from India, from the Upanishads, and is thousands of years old. It presents a parabolic answer to the root question of all religion and philosophy (Who am I and what is this?), and does so in a way which everyone can relate to.

In the beginning of the world, there was only Brahma. Being all there was, and therefore totally known to himself, Brahma soon realized that this totality of awareness would eventually become extremely boring… after all, when you know everything there is to know, then there’s no surprise, nothing to keep you interested. It’s like reading the same book for the seventy-eight millionth time. Anyway, since he was omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (all-everywhere), Brahma decided to create a diversion for himself, a way of introducing the elements of surprise, intrigue and drama into his experience. He thought, “What would it be like to forget who I really am?”

So, he invented the game of cosmic hide-and-seek. According to the rules of this game, Brahma would pretend to break pieces of himself off from the whole so that to all appearances they would seem separate. That’s the “hide” part. Then, as the apparently separate consciousness at the center of each of those apparently separate pieces, and through their apparently separate and unique perspectives, he would “seek” to rediscover who he really was, which was, of course, everything.

Imagine seeing yourself from an infinite number of different perspectives, each one initially ignorant of its relationship to all the rest. Imagine going to sleep and dreaming a different lifetime each night, each lasting for more or less years, each complete with the full range and variety of emotional life and death details. Imagine having the same dream but playing a different role in it each night, seeing it through different eyes each time. Well, guess who those apparently separate pieces are? Since there is only one I Am in the universe, one consciousness, it’s all a game of hide-and-seek, and each one of us is in the same state: I’m It and You’re It!

Roger Stephens – A Dangerous Book

Māyā

In time each instant is, only in so far as it has effaced the preceding one, its generator, to be itself in turn as quickly effaced. The past and the future (considered apart from the consequences of their content) are empty as a dream, and the present is only the indivisible and unenduring boundary between them. The substance of this doctrine is old: it appears in Heraclitus when he laments the eternal flux of things; in Plato when he degrades the object to that which is ever becoming, but never being; in Spinoza as the doctrine of the mere accidents of the one substance which is and endures. Kant opposes what is thus known as the mere phenomenon to the thing in itself. Lastly, the ancient wisdom of the Indian philosophers declares:

It is Mâyâ, the veil of deception, which blinds the eyes of mortals, and makes them behold a world of which they cannot say either that it is or that it is not: for it is like a dream; it is like the sunshine on the sand which the traveller takes from afar for water, or the stray piece of rope he mistakes for a snake.

These similes are repeated in innumerable passages of the Vedas and the Puranas. But what all these mean, and that of which they all speak, is nothing more than what we have just considered.

Artur Schopenhauer – The World As Idea. First Aspect

The Tower

In Luke 14:26, as everybody knows, there is a striking doctrine taught about the absolute duty toward God:

If any man cometh unto me and hateth not his own father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

This is a hard saying, who can bear to hear it? For this reason it is heard very seldom. This silence, however, is only an evasion which is of no avail. In the verse immediately following there is a story about a man who desired to build a tower but first sat down to calculate whether he was capable of doing it, lest people might laugh at him afterwards. The close connection of this story with the verse here cited seems precisely to indicate that the words are to be taken in as terrible a sense as possible, to the end that everyone may examine himself as to whether he is able to erect the tower.

The words are terrible, yet I fully believe that one can understand them without implying that he who understands them has courage to do them. But we must be honest, and not interpret this lack of courage as humility, since it is really pride. One can easily perceive that if there is to be any sense in this passage, it must be understood literally. God it is who requires absolute love.

But how hate them? If I regard the problem as a paradox, then I understand it, that is, I understand it in such a way as one can understand a paradox. This is shown by Abraham. The instant he is ready to sacrifice Isaac the ethical expression for what he does is this: he hates Isaac. But if he really hates Isaac, he can be sure that God does not require this, for Cain and Abraham are not identical. Isaac he must love with his whole soul; when God requires Isaac he must love him if possible even more dearly, and only on this condition can he sacrifice him; for in fact it is this love for Isaac which, by its paradoxical opposition to his love for God, makes his act a sacrifice.

People commonly refrain from quoting such a text as this in Luke. They are afraid of giving men a free rein, are afraid that the worst will happen as soon as the individual takes it into his head to comport himself as the individual. Moreover, they think that to exist as the individual is the easiest thing of all, and that therefore people have to be compelled to become the universal. I cannot share either this fear or this opinion, and both for the same reason. He who has learned that to exist as the individual is the most terrible thing of all will not be fearful of saying that it is great. He knows that it is terrible to be born outside the universal, to walk without meeting a single traveller. Humanly speaking, he is crazy and cannot make himself intelligible to anyone.

Sören Kierkegaard – Fear and Trembling. Is there such a thing as an absolute duty toward God?

Unknowable God

To deny all the qualities of a being is equivalent to denying the being itself. A being without qualities is one which cannot become an object to the mind, and such a being is virtually non-existent. To the truly religious man, God is not a being without qualities, because to him it is a positive, real being. The theory that God cannot be defined, and consequently cannot be known by man, is therefore the offspring of recent times, a product of modern unbelief.

The proposition that God is unknowable or undefinable, can only be enunciated and become fixed as a dogma, where this object has no longer any interest for the intellect; where the real, the positive, alone has any hold on man, where the real alone has for him the significance of the essential, of the absolute, divine object. On the ground that God is unknowable, man excuses himself to what is yet remaining of his religious conscience for his forgetfulness of God, his absorption in the world: he denies God practically by his conduct — the world has possession of all his thoughts and inclinations — but he does not deny it theoretically, he does not attack its existence; he lets that rest. But this existence does not affect or incommode him.

The denial of determinate, positive predicates concerning the divine nature is nothing else than a denial of religion; it is simply a subtle, disguised atheism. The alleged religious horror of limiting God by positive predicates is only the irreligious wish to know nothing more of God, to banish God from the mind.

Hence the position that there indeed is another, a heavenly life, but that what and how it is must here remain inscrutable, is only an invention of religious scepticism, which, being entirely alien to the religious sentiment, proceeds upon a total misconception of religion.

Ludwig Feuerbach – The Essence of Religion. The Christian heaven

The Anarchist

There is a perfect likeness between Christian and anarchist: their object, their instinct, points only toward destruction. Those holy anarchists made it a matter of “piety” to destroy “the world,”which is to say, the Imperium Romanum, so that in the end not a stone stood upon another — and even Germans and other such louts were able to become its masters. The Christian and the anarchist: both are decadents; both are incapable of any act that is not disintegrating, poisonous, degenerating, blood-sucking; both have an instinct of mortal hatred of everything that stands up, and is great, and has durability, and promises life a future.

These stealthy worms, which under the cover of night, mist and duplicity, crept upon every individual, sucking him dry of all earnest interest in real things, of all instinct for reality — this cowardly, effeminate and sugar-coated gang gradually alienated all “souls,” step by step, from that colossal edifice, turning against it all the meritorious, manly and noble natures that had found in the cause of Rome their own cause, their own serious purpose, their own pride. The sneakishness of hypocrisy, the secrecy of the conventicle, concepts as black as hell, such as the sacrifice of the innocent, the unio mystica in the drinking of blood, above all, the slowly rekindled fire of revenge, of Chandala revenge — all that sort of thing became master of Rome: the same kind of religion which, in a pre-existent form, Epicurus had combated.

One has but to read Lucretius to know what Epicurus made war upon — not paganism, but “Christianity,” which is to say, the corruption of souls by means of the concepts of guilt, punishment and immortality. He combated the subterranean cults, the whole of latent Christianity — to deny immortality was already a form of genuine salvation. Epicurus had triumphed, and every respectable intellect in Rome was Epicurean — when Paul appeared…

Paul, the Chandala hatred of Rome, of “the world,” in the flesh and inspired by genius — the eternal Jew par excellence. What he saw was how, with the aid of the small sectarian Christian movement that stood apart from Judaism, a “world conflagration” might be kindled; how, with the symbol of “God on the cross,” all secret seditions, all the fruits of anarchistic intrigues in the empire, might be amalgamated into one immense power.

The genius of Paul showed itself. His instinct was here so sure that, with reckless violence to the truth, he put the ideas which lent fascination to every sort of Chandala religion into the mouth of the “Saviour” as his own inventions, and not only into the mouth — he made out of him something that even a priest of Mithras could understand. This was his revelation at Damascus: he grasped the fact that he needed the belief in immortality in order to rob “the world” of its value, that the concept of “hell” would master Rome — that the notion of a “beyond” is the death of life.

Friedrich Nietzsche – The Antichrist

Pain and Boredom

The basis of all willing is need, deficiency, and thus pain. Consequently, the nature of brutes and man is subject to pain originally and through its very being. If, on the other hand, it lacks objects of desire, because it is at once deprived of them by a too easy satisfaction, a terrible void and boredom comes over it. Thus its life swings like a pendulum backwards and forwards between pain and boredom. This has also had to express itself very oddly in this way: after man had transferred all pain and torments to hell, there then remained nothing over for heaven but boredom.

The striving after existence is what occupies all living things and maintains them in motion. But when existence is assured, then they know not what to do with it; thus the second thing that sets them in motion is the effort to get free from the burden of existence, to make it cease to be felt, “to kill time,” i.e., to escape from boredom. Accordingly we see that almost all men become a burden to themselves. Boredom makes beings who love each other so little as men do, seek each other eagerly, and thus becomes the source of social intercourse. As want is the constant scourge of the people, so boredom is that of the fashionable world. In middle-class life boredom is represented by the Sunday, and want by the six week-days.

From the first appearance of consciousness, a man finds himself a willing being, and as a rule, his knowledge remains in constant relation to his will. He first seeks to know thoroughly the objects of his desire, and then the means of attaining them. Now he knows what he has to do, and, as a rule, he does not strive after other knowledge. He moves and acts; his consciousness keeps him always working directly and actively towards the aims of his will; his thought is concerned with the choice of motives. Such is life for almost all men; they wish, they know what they wish, and they strive after it, with sufficient success to keep them from despair, and sufficient failure to keep them from boredom and its consequences. They press forward with much earnestness, and indeed with an air of importance; thus children also pursue their play.

Artur Schopenhauer – The World As Will. Second Aspect

Postscript

O Gilgamesh, why dost thou run in all directions? The life that thou seekest, thou will not find. When the gods created mankind, they determined death for mankind, life they kept in their own hands. Thou, O Gilgamesh, fill thy belly, day and night dance and make music. Let thy garments be made clean. Let thy head be washed and be thou bathed in water. Give heed to the little one who takes hold of thy hand. Let a wife rejoice in thy bosom, for this is the mission of man.

Epic of Gilgamesh

Peace

You must understand that point first: what is this world? You make 1. time, 2. space, 3. karma [cause and effect]. In three seconds, when you asked that question, you made this whole world. Physics used to teach that time and space, and cause and effect, are absolutes. But modern physics teaches that time, space, and cause and effect are subjective. So you make this whole world, and you make your time and space.

The Buddha taught this, and we can test it in our everyday life. “Everything is created by mind alone.”

First we need to understand who creates this world. Who? World means: 1. Time, space and 2. 3. karma [cause and effect]. These three things together make up the world. Where is the world? What is the world? Who creates time, space, cause and effect? Nobody understands, but we call it the world. Physicists say that the time, space, cause and effect are absolutes. Now they say they are subject; are your mind. If your idea of time and space is different, then the cause and effect of it will be different.

You have to understand the essence of Buddhism. Buddha said that all things are created by the mind alone. You create your time, your space, its cause and effect. If you do nothing, then there is no time, no space, no cause or effect. Your world is completely finished. My world is finite. But everyone does something, so there is a big mistake, and world peace is not possible.

So please everyone: for one day, do not do anything. Then one day there will be peace in the world. Excellent master said, a great way is not difficult, do not just divisions. Before each facing elections, so we have problems. Why choose?

Human beings do not matter, because no choice. If you make choices, you’re doing something. You create a reason, you create problems. Everyone does. He says things like: I like communism; I like capitalism; I like Buddhism; I like Catholicism, I like this and that. So everyone has a problem and is therefore struggle.

But you complicates your world. I complicates my world. Two, three, many worlds many complications. This world is very big, so it is all the more complicated. But if you see that your world is very simple, and I see that my world is very simple, the whole world is very simple. No problem.

Do you understand the world of the child? Five year old goes to the market and sees another child. First, they look at each other. They do not know each other’s names, or anything about myself do not know. But soon they go over to him and will talk. All children do that. But when they grow up will be: I am. Then you imitating me !, I do not love you. You’re not fine !, Why not? and will soon be fighting. That’s liking and disliking, which appears, it is like an atomic bomb. If everyone could do that to his inner “I like it” mind vanished, the external atomic bomb would not be dangerous. That’s liking-disliking mind is an internal atomic bomb, that it is the most dangerous. If the atomic bomb will dissolve if everyone finds his human nature, then world peace will not be a problem. Do you understand now?

The Madman

Haven’t you heard of that madman who in the bright morning lit a lantern and ran around the marketplace crying incessantly, ‘I’m looking for God! I’m looking for God!’ Since many of those who did not believe in God were standing around together just then, he caused great laughter. Has he been lost, then? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone to sea? Emigrated? – Thus they shouted and laughed, one interrupting the other.

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. ‘Where is God?’ he cried; ‘I’ll tell you! We have killed him – you and I! We are all his murderers. But how did we do this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Where is it moving to now? Where are we moving to? Away from all suns? Are we not continually falling? Aren’t we straying as though through an infinite nothing? Isn’t empty space breathing at us? Hasn’t it got colder? Isn’t night and more night coming again and again? Don’t lanterns have to be lit in the morning? The holiest and the mightiest thing the world has ever possessed has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood from us? With what water could we clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what holy games will we have to invent for ourselves? Is the magnitude of this deed not too great for us? Do we not ourselves have to become gods merely to appear worthy of it?’

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; they too were silent and looked at him disconcertedly. Finally he threw his lantern on the ground so that it broke into pieces and went out. ‘I come too early’, he then said; ‘my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder need time; the light of the stars needs time; deeds need time, even after they are done, in order to be seen and heard. This deed is still more remote to them than the remotest stars – and yet they have done it themselves!’

It is still recounted how on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there started singing his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but:

What then are these churches now if not the tombs and sepulchres of God?

Friedrich Nietzsche – The Gay Science

The Autumn of the World

When the world was half a thousand years younger all events had much sharper outlines than now. The distance between sadness and joy, between good and bad fortune, seemed to be much greater than for us; every experience had that degree of directness and absoluteness which joy and sadness still have in the mind of a child. The great events of human life–birth, marriage, death–by virtue of the sacraments, basked in the radiance of the divine mystery.

There was less relief available for misfortune and for sickness; they came in a more fearful and more painful way. Sickness contrasted more strongly with health. The cutting cold and the dreaded darkness of winter were more concrete evils. Honor and wealth were enjoyed more fervently and greedily because they contrasted still more than now with lamentable poverty. The lepers, shaking their rattles and holding processions, put their deformities openly on display.

In their external appearance, too, town and countryside displayed the same contrast and colour. The city did not dissipate, as do our cities, into carelessly fashioned, ugly factories and monotonous country homes but, enclosed by its walls, presented a completely rounded picture that included its innumerable protruding towers. Just as the contrast between summer and winter was stronger then than in our present lives, so was the difference between light and dark, quiet and noise. The modern city hardly knows pure darkness or true silence anymore, not does it know the effect of a single small light or that of a lonely distant shout.

Johan Huizinga – The Autumn of the Middle Ages

Honesty of thought

What had availed the fact that I had at least tried to make my thought honest? Indeed, what did we mean by honesty of thought? Was not that, too, vainglory and pride and delusion? What man – or, indeed, what beast – cared about such a bloodless abstraction, when he was warm in his bed, well fed, with his well-beloved close to him, comforting him and transforming existence from its original emptiness to an eternal triumph of comradeship and love? Why had we been created at all, if this agony of isolation could be our lot? How cheap seemed the agnosticism of youth, and yet how hopeless now to try to repudiate its skepticism. I could not say – I tried and tried again – “Our Father, who art in Heaven.” That was weakness and a desire to return to the warm protective womb.

I had tasted of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and now, when so passionately I wanted to sink back into a kind of animal faith, I could not. I could do nothing; thought availed not at all, except to sharpen and intensify the sense of impotence and helplessness and depersonalization. Things – even the rocks and the sea – and myself were in the same blind, sensless category of non-being, of eternal death – made all the more piercing to us by the transient illusion of existence.

Yet if existence is only an illusion, perhaps no reality is stronger than it seems to be; its validity lies in that seeming. For where else could it lie? In an external world, the very awareness of which is necessarily a part of our limitations? There was no clear answer. I was caught in the old solipsistic net. Nor could I extricate myself from it – that is, so long as the pain of knowing I was aware (or the burden of consciousness, if you wish) could not be assuaged.

Harold E. Stearns – The Street I Know: The Autobiography of the Last of the Bohemians

As Others Do

The ultimate triumph of philosophy would be to cast light upon the mysterious ways in which Providence moves to achieve the designs it has for man, and then to deduce therefrom some plan of conduct which would enable that two-legged wretch, forever buffeted by the whims of the Supreme Being who is said to direct his steps no less despotically, to know how to interpret what Providence decrees for him and to select a path to follow which would forestall the bizarre caprices of the Fate to which a score of different names are given but whose nature is still uncertain.

For if, taking social conventions as our starting-point and remaining faithful to the respect for them which education has bred in us, it should by mischance occur that through the perversity of others we encounter only thorns while evil persons gather nothing but roses, then will not a man, possessed of a stock of virtue insufficient to allow him to rise above the thoughts inspired by these unhappy circumstances, calculate that he would do as well to swim with the torrent as against it? And will he not say that when virtue, however fine a thing it be, unhappily proves too weak to resist evil, then virtue becomes the worst path he can follow, and will he not conclude that in an age that is utterly corrupt, the best policy is to do as others do?

Donatien Alphonse François de Sade – The Misfortunes of Virtue

Nobody believes

Let us suppose that I have certain visual and tactual sensations which produce in my mind an association of ideas. For example, when sitting at the table in my study, I have those visual sensations which I call seeing the table and the tactual sensations which I call touching or feeling the table. And an association is set up such that when I have a visual sensation of this kind, a tactual sensation is present as a possibility. Conversely, when I have only a tactual sensation, as when the room is completely dark, a visual sensation is there as a possibility. Further, when I leave the room and later re-enter it, I have similar sensations.

Hence an association is formed in my mind of such a kind that when I am out of the room, I am firmly persuaded that, if I were at any moment to re-enter it, I should or could have similar sensations. Further, as these possible sensations form a group, and as moreover the group is found to enter into various causal relations, I inevitably think of the permanent possibilities of sensations as an abiding physical object. Actual sensations are transient and fugitive. But the possibilities of sensation, associated as a group, remain. The definition of matter as a permanent possibility of sensation is, however, ambiguous. For it easily suggests the idea of a permanent ground of possible sensations, a ground which is itself unknowable.

As for science, this would become a study of the relations between my sensations. But is it credible that if an anatomist looks at a human brain, the object of his examination is simply a set of his own subjective states, actual and possible? In short, the logical result of defining physical objects in terms of sensations is solipsism. And nobody really believes that solipsism is true.

Frederick Copleston – A History of Philosophy, Volume VIII: Modern Philosophy: Empiricism, Idealism, and Pragmatism in Britain and America

Nothing


For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul. And to say that the season for studying philosophy has not yet come, or that it is past and gone, is like saying that the season for happiness is not yet or that it is now no more. So we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything.

First believe that God is a living being immortal and blessed, according to the notion of a god indicated by the common sense of mankind. For there are gods, and the knowledge of them is manifest; but they are not such as the multitude believe. Not the man who denies the gods worshipped by the multitude, but he who affirms of the gods what the multitude believes about them is truly impious. For the utterances of the multitude about the gods are not true preconceptions but false assumptions; hence it is that the greatest evils happen to the wicked and the greatest blessings happen to the good from the hand of the gods, seeing that they are always favorable to their own good qualities and take pleasure in men like themselves.

Accustom yourself to believing that death is nothing to us, for good and evil imply the capacity for sensation, and death is deprivation of all sentience; therefore a correct understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, by taking away the yearning after immortality.

Epicurus – Letter to Menoeceus

Contradiction of Faith and Love

Faith is the opposite of love. It was faith, not love, not reason, which invented Hell. To love, Hell is a horror; to reason, an absurdity. Hell sweetens the joys of happy believers.

God is love. This is the sublimest dictum of Christianity. But the contradiction of faith and love is contained in the very proposition. Love is only a predicate, God the subject. What, then, is this subject in distinction from love? The necessity of the distinction would be done away with only if it were said conversely: Love is God, love is the absolute being. Thus love would take the position of the substance. But love does not alone fill my soul: I leave a place open for my uncharitableness by thinking of God as a subject in distinction from the predicate.

Necessarily; for in Christianity love is tainted by faith, it is not free, it is not apprehended truly. A love which is limited by faith is an untrue love. Love knows no law but itself; it is divine through itself; it needs not the sanction of faith; it is its own basis. The love which is bound by faith is a narrow-hearted, false love, contradicting the idea of love, i.e., self-contradictory,— a love which has only a semblance of holiness, for it hides in itself the hatred that belongs to faith; it is only benevolent so long as faith is not injured. Hence, in this contradiction with itself, in order to retain the semblance of love, it falls into the most diabolical sophisms, as we see in Augustine’s apology for the persecution of heretics. Love is limited by faith; hence it does not regard even the uncharitable actions which faith suggests as in contradiction with itself; it interprets the deeds of hatred which are committed for the sake of faith as deeds of love.

The Bible curses through faith, blesses through love. But the only love it knows is a love founded on faith. Thus here already it is a love which curses, an unreliable love, a love which gives me no guarantee that it will not turn into hatred; for if I do not acknowledge the articles of faith, I am out of the sphere of love, a child of hell, an object of anathema, of the anger of God, to whom the existence of unbelievers is a vexation, a thorn in the eye. Christian love has not overcome hell, because it has not overcome faith. Love is in itself unbelieving, faith unloving. And love is unbelieving because it knows nothing more divine than itself, because it believes only in itself as absolute truth.

Christian love is already signalised as a particular, limited love, by the very epithet, Christian. But love is in its nature universal. So long as Christian love does not renounce its qualification of Christian, does not make love, simply, its highest law, so long is it a love which is injurious to the sense of truth, for the very office of love is to abolish the distinction between Christianity and so-called heathenism;— so long is it a love which by its particularity is in contradiction with the nature of love, an abnormal, loveless love, which has therefore long been justly an object of sarcasm. True love is sufficient to itself; it needs no special title, no authority.

Ludwig Feuerbach – The Essence of Christianity

Alienation

The point of departure is the eschatological question: how is man to be reconciled with himself and the world? According to Hegel this comes about when Mind, having passed through the Agony of the Cross, which is the travail of history, finally comes to understand the world as an exteriorization of itself; it assimilates and ratifies the world as its own truth, divests it of its objective character.

Marx, like Hegel, looks forward to man’s final reconciliation with the world, himself, and others. Following Feuerbach against Hegel, he does not see this in terms of the recognition of being as a product of self-knowledge, but in the recognition of sources of alienation in man’s terrestrial lot and in the overcoming of this state of affairs. On the other hand, he disagrees with Feuerbach’s view that alienation results from the mythopoeic consciousness which makes God the concentration of human values; instead, he regards this consciousness as itself the product of the alienation of labour.

Alienated labour is a consequence of the division of labour, which in its turn is due to technological progress, and is therefore an inevitable feature of history. Marx agrees with Hegel against Feuerbach in seeing alienation not merely as something destructive and inhuman but as a condition of the future all-round development of mankind. But he dissents from Hegel in regarding history up to the present time not as the progressive conquest of freedom but as a process of degradation that has reached its nadir in the maturity of capitalist society.

Alienation means the subjugation of man by his own works, which have assumed the guise of independent things. The commodity character of products and their expression in money form has the effect that the social process of exchange is regulated by factors operating independently of human will. Alienation gives rise to private property and to political institutions. The state creates a fictitious community where human relations inevitably take the form of a conflict of egoisms. The enslavement of the collectivity to its own products entails the mutual isolation of individuals.

Leszek Kolakowski – Main Currents of Marxism. Vol. 1, Recapitulation

Boredom

All of a sudden he jerked his head up and looked me in the eyes. “Why,” he asked, “don’t you let me come to see you?” I explained that I didn’t believe in God. “Are you really so sure of that?” I said I saw no point in troubling my head about the matter; whether I believed or didn’t was, to my mind, a question of so little importance.

Almost without seeming to address me, he remarked that he’d often noticed one fancies one is quite sure about something, when in point of fact one isn’t. When I said nothing, he looked at me again, and asked: “Don’t you agree?” I said that seemed quite possible. But, though I mightn’t be so sure about what interested me, I was absolutely sure about what didn’t interest me. And the question he had raised didn’t interest me at all.

“Have you no hope at all? Do you really think that when you die you die outright, and nothing remains?” I said: “Yes.” He dropped his eyes and sat down again. He was truly sorry for me, he said. It must make life unbearable for a man, to think as I did. The priest was beginning to bore me.

Albert Camus – The Stranger