Bring It On!

Quote of the Day 5/29/08

May 29th, 2008 | by Paul Merda |

Let us then endeavor to disperse those clouds of ignorance, those mists of darkness which impede man on his journey, which obscure his progress, which prevent his marching through life with a firm, with a steady step. Let us try to inspire him with courage — with respect for his reason — with an inextinguishable love for truth — to the end that he may learn to know himself — to know his legitimate rights — that he may learn to consult his experience, and no longer be the dupe of an imagination led astray by authority — that he may renounce the prejudices of his childhood — that he may learn to found his morals on his nature, on his wants, on the real advantage of society — that he may dare to love himself — that he may learn to pursue his true happiness by promoting that of others — in short, that he may no longer occupy himself with reveries either useless or dangerous — that he may become a virtuous, a rational being, in which case he cannot fail to become happy. – Paul Henri Thierry Baron D’Holbach

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  1. 16 Responses to “Quote of the Day 5/29/08”

  2. By Jet Netwal on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    I dunno, Paul. I can think of a few times where occupying myself with reveries not exactly virtuous or rational made me very happy… :-D

  3. By Paul Merda on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    Indeed!! I must say I still indulge in such reveries that are useless ;-)

  4. By Craig R. Harmon on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    Um…no. Thanks but no thanks. If I thought the way of our salvation was through pure reason, I’d agree. However, the one thing that seems to increase with our increase in knowledge is: the knowledge of how much we do not know.

    I no more need to be able to manufacture and assemble the lap-top I’m typing on to be able to use it profitably and in a manner beneficial to myself and others than I need to know all that there is to know and banish all meaningless reveries to be happy and virtuous and of value and benefit to my fellow man.

  5. By Craig R. Harmon on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    Sometimes it is through the most useless of reveries that genuine advances in knowledge come. The inventor of the sewing-machine solved the problem of designing the needle through a dream. Often the solution to a problem does not come through simply applying one’s mind to the problem until it is solved. Sometimes, taking a break from the problem and letting the mind drift aimlessly will reveal a solution. I am thoroughly convinced that man will never know all there is to know. Not that he shouldn’t keep searching for knowledge. He should. But he should no more reject meaningless reverie than he should imagine that his reason is capable of all true knowledge.

    Furthermore, so much of what we have ever called knowledge is quite speculative, capable of being changed in a moment. That change will not necessarily make man any more knowledgeable of what is true than it is certain to make him more virtuous. Socrates, with the limits to the knowledge of man at his time, was a virtuous person. Here is virtue: “It is better to have evil done to one than for one to do evil.” The man knew what was necessary to be happy and virtuous in spite of knowing almost nothing of what we now count to be knowledge.

    There’s no necessary connection between knowledge, virtue and happiness.

  6. By Paul Merda on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    Ignorance is bliss…

    In any case it seems to me that as mankind has increased his knowledge of the Universe, more people have been made happy. 100 years ago, more people lived on a much lower standard of living than they do today. Consider 200 years ago and keep going back and I think there is a link between what mankind (not necessarily each individual) knows of his Universe and how many people lead happier, more fulfilled lives.

  7. By Ken Grandlund on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    Ah, but Paul, with our increase in knowledge we have experienced a decrease in wisdom, no? While we live better today than those of 100 or 200 years ago, how long will this last? Current environmental forecasts show clouds on the horizon, in no small part due to human activity borne from advances in knowledge.

    Don’t get me wrong…I’m all for knowledge and the wise use of it. But we deploy our new skills and knowledge without much thought to the possible future consequences of its use. Our prime motivation for all new knowledge use is to see how it can earn us money or give us power over others. Neither a sure recipe for universal happiness.

    Knowledge without wisdom will always have some negative side effects. And to presume that our current wealth of knowledge guarantees we won’t slip back into more servile lifestyles- less happy lives- may be a step too far at this point in our development.

  8. By Craig R. Harmon on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    Paul,

    The increase in standard of living really has very little to do with our increase in knowledge of the universe over the last 100 years. It has to do with the application of economic principles that were known more than 100 years ago and which were explicated by Adam Smith in 1776 in his Wealth of Nations and the maintenance of liberty for entrepreneurial experimentation and free trade among states and nations set up in 1789 by our U. S. Constitution.

    That is not to say that there have been no advances, there have, or that those advances have not extended human life and opened up choices not available to people in the past, they have, but I don’t know that they have necessarily increased human happiness. Sometimes having more choices just makes people more confused about what is the best choice and increases the likelihood that they will make a choice that will cause less, not more happiness. I don’t see any particular evidence that people are all that much happier today or that any increase in happiness has much to do with the increase in human knowledge, collectively speaking. I think that happiness has to do with the degree to which one is satisfied with one’s existence and one’s place in the world. These have more to do with cultural myths and their acceptance or rejection and one’s willingness to accept what is as opposed to being unhappy about what is not than they do with how much collective knowledge the race has collected. Happiness is a spiritual thing that is, in my opinion, unrelated to either individual or collective knowledge. For instance, did the discovery of the equation, e=mc2, really make us happier or did it scare us silly because it lead to nuclear weapons and the possibility, for the first time ever in human history, of the total destruction of human life on earth? The digging of bomb shelters and millions of school kids in hallways with their heads between their knees would tend to indicate that, on the whole, the discovery created less, not more, happiness.

  9. By Craig R. Harmon on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    There is also some evidence that people who believe in God are, at least subjectively, happier than those who do not, perhaps because that faith gives them a sense that, come what may, whether pain or pleasure, joy or sorrow, ultimately they are safe in the arms of one who is above the daily vicissitudes of life. Even if religion WERE but the opiate of the masses, with no objective reality behind it, such faith can lead to happiness even in one who has experienced much sadness and sorrow and pain.

  10. By Craig R. Harmon on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    Are people happier thinking that gravity is a warping in the space-time continuum rather than a force of attraction between two objects with positive mass? Does it really matter to the daily life of anyone but the physicist? The Earth moves around the sun in an elliptical shaped path and the sun moves through space away from some center, the point at which the big bang occurred some hundreds of billions of years past. There. Do you feel happier than the one who believed that the earth was the stationary center of the universe? Has that knowledge increased your happiness? If so, how?

  11. By Paul Merda on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    Interesting points Craig…

  12. By christopher Radulich on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    The increase in standard of living really has very little to do with our increase in knowledge of the universe over the last 100 years. It has to do with the application of economic principles that were known more than 100 years ago and which were explicated by Adam Smith in 1776 in his Wealth of Nations and the maintenance of liberty for entrepreneurial experimentation and free trade among states and nations set up in 1789 by our U. S. Constitution.

    Absolute crap! Without the scientific advance of the last 100 years Malthus would have been right. Without transistors we would not be having this discussion. Without advances in communications and transportation our world could not exist.

    Ps read Freedman Freedom of choice. Wrong in so many ways.

  13. By Craig R. Harmon on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    Christopher,

    But has it made us any happier? ;-)

  14. By Chris Radulich on May 30, 2008 | Reply

    can’t speak for others. But knowing our present society and the past I am happier living today.

  15. By Craig R. Harmon on May 30, 2008 | Reply

    Chris,

    Oh, no doubt. But that doesn’t mean that those in the past, not knowing our present, weren’t as happy or happier than we are on the whole. Without our present to compare to theirs, they would have no reason to think, “Gee, our life sucks compared to that.” Rather, they would have their own knowledge of the past and may well draw the conclusion that their life is much better and, therefore, be happier.

    But suppose the people of the past had knowledge of our present. They might not be quite as impressed with it as you and I are. They very well might look at it, as the radical Islamists do, with disgust and dismay and say, “Thank God I don’t live in that world.” Much that we take for granted today would be dismaying to them, I think. Actually, much of it is dismaying to me but that’s a different story.

    I’m just saying that every condition of life has its trade-offs and human beings seem to have the capacity to be happy in the most miserable of conditions while they also have the capacity to be miserable under what most would consider to be the most ideal of conditions. This is what I’m getting at: happiness appears to be an inward condition, a conscious or unconscious decision to be happy in wealth or poverty, sickness or health, advanced or backwater, knowledgeable or ignorant.

  16. By Craig R. Harmon on May 30, 2008 | Reply

    that he may learn to found his morals on his nature, on his wants, on the real advantage of society

    This is truly pernicious, in my opinion: man basing his morals on his wants? As though a person’s wants bear any necessary relation to the real advantage of society? This is the morals of the criminal who sees no reason why he should be punished for his theft of what he wanted, the murder of whom he wanted out of his life, the morals of the crooked “roof repair man” and shady used car salesman. Man’s nature ain’t so pretty that I think we should be basing our morals on it. Human nature has produced Socrates and Stalin, Hume and Hitler.

    And basing our morals on the real advantage of society sounds way too collectivist to me. This is the morals of the mauist: the wants and needs of the individual are nothing; only the collective matters. Therefore the individual who stands in the way of some “Dear Leader” is to be re-educated or eliminated for the greater good of the whole. The morals of “The individual has no rights but to serve the collective.” I’m no Randian Objectivist but collectivism has brought some of the greatest human evils down upon human kind that has ever been devised by the nature of man.

    Fire away!

  17. By Chris Radulich on May 30, 2008 | Reply

    I don’t disagree. I would assume that most people who are close to normal for their society( assuming they know nothing else) are happy.

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