February 3rd, 2009


Epicurus, Epictetus, Christ

Answers to some questions (and one apology!) for Kaltrosomos:

Q: (quoting me) "In other words, a philosophy or world view which does not contain a metaphysical reason to support the idea of Natural Reason does not have a necessary reason or justification to propose that we should feel pain when others feel pain."  What do you mean here by a 'metaphysical reason', and what is meant by "Natural Reason" as opposed to just Reason? Do you mean by 'metaphysical reason' an assumed axiom or axioms which are the basis of the rest of a man's philosophy?

A: A metaphysical reason, in this context, means a reason supported by metaphysics, which is the study of the preconditions of other sciences.

For example, the belief that every effect comes from a cause is not a conclusions of physics; it is an axiom of physics but a conclusion of metaphysics. Physics properly so called cannot take place without it. Metaphysics can also be called the study of universals rather than particulars. Whether we live in a universe where the speed of light is absolute or relative is a matter of fact, determined by looking at the facts, and is a question of physics; whether or not all possible universes admit of the law of cause and effect is a question of metaphysics.

In the same way that the study of physics has axioms without which it cannot proceed, the study of ethics has also.

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Lord Dunsany and David Lindsay

One thing I think remarkable about VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS by Lindsay is how beloved it is by those who love this harsh, crabbed, confusing, nightmarish but somehow very honest book, and how obscure it is. Myself, I think the obscurity is perhaps merited: VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS is a gauntlet flung into the face of everything normal. But Lindsay's work was ignored during his life, and he died in obscurity, due to infection caused by tooth decay.

Here is a very short (a half a dozen paragraphs) short story written by Lord Dunsany. It appeared in THE BOOK OF WONDER published in 1915, and so is now public domain. It could have been written for David Lindsay. It is called  The Assignation.

Fame singing in the highways, and trifling as she sang, with sordid adventurers, passed the poet by.

And still the poet made for her little chaplets of song, to deck her forehead in the courts of Time: and still she wore instead the worthless garlands, that boisterous citizens flung to her in the ways, made out of perishable things.

And after a while whenever these garlands died the poet came to her with his chaplets of song; and still she laughed at him and wore the worthless wreaths, though they always died at evening.

And one day in his bitterness the poet rebuked her, and said to her: "Lovely Fame, even in the highways and the byways you have not foreborne to laugh and shout and jest with worthless men, and I have toiled for you and dreamed of you and you mock me and pass me by."

And Fame turned her back on him and walked away, but in departing she looked over her shoulder and smiled at him as she had not smiled before, and, almost speaking in a whisper, said:

"I will meet you in the graveyard at the back of the Workhouse in a hundred years."