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The Socrates Express: In Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers

by Eric Weiner

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2182123,968 (4.03)3
Retraces the journeys of forefront intellectuals from Epicurus and Gandhi to Thoreau and Beauvoir to illuminate how their practical and spiritual lessons can be applied in today's unsettled world.
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I’m again kind of scrimping on petty cash stuff as I read this, so I went back to the library. I found out something kinda funny—they have more metaphysical/pagan-y/occult books than I thought, they just shelve them as alternative philosophy rather than alternative religion. I knew they were at least a few token volumes of new age books in philosophy, but I didn’t know the extent of their generosity. I guess it makes sense how they did it. Many a church-goer sees that book, he curses and complains; the philosopher might mutter and shake his head, but he wouldn’t complain and wouldn’t consider it worse than many other things, right.

But yeah, I went through general philosophy and culled it a bit—some books are too pedantic even for a brainiac field, for anything, really; some of the classic philosophers aren’t worth reading, whether polite/repressed medieval guys, or Kant with his brain disease, right. His brain just kept growing and growing: till it exploded…. I actually feel like I wasn’t good enough to average friendly philosopher sorts, even though it obviously hasn’t been a friendly history to create the look that is the average philosopher’s face, right…. But it can feel dishonest to pretend it’s something other than it is, even from say the woman’s point of view, right. It just isn’t something it isn’t, in this time and place. And yeah, I feel reading what I call now interpretations of general philosophy (I could also read more history of general philosophy some other time) can be as good as reading the classics in their original (or, literally translated rather than interpreted) forms: you get more breath that way, and newer stuff, since most advance in philosophy is incremental and slow rather than creative and comprehensive—not many philosophers are like Plato or Soren the Dane, right. (Kierke…. Keerker…. You know who I’m talking about.) And that can lead to modestly smaller amounts of pedantry—there are philosophers who wouldn’t mutter under their breath about tarot being as bad as rap, you know. (They are both kinda subversive, from a certain point of view.)

So yeah: train ride with Socrates: woot! (Incidentally swords and air are both associated with both travel and intellectual activity in tarot/occultism…. lol.)

…. It’s actually sortable quotable, although I didn’t, because I liked it, but it would be easy for the cool kid with “sexy French depression” (cf “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”—“…. Depression is Not, sexy!!”), to kinda…. Yeah.

It’s funny how among Eric’s titles is journalist; I know that not all journalists are “journalists”—right: daily crime news/nightly political acting-out monitor, right. I even have some magazines, although obviously he didn’t have a photographer working with him on this project, right…. But yeah, he seems like, ‘the good journalist’.

…. But yeah, I feel like I’m not “learning facts” so much—I feel like there will be a lot of people I know something about already and/or that are simpler guys, like Marcus the Roman, who’s both, right—but the uses he puts to the facts and the interpretations he gives them are good~ and he can actually make you like these guys, right; and it’s easy not to like them. When the world was still cooling post-dinosaur asteroid, the wise men were laying waste the earth, and now, you get club points (tm), if you know facts about them, right…. But yeah, Wake up today? is by no means a solved question, in a sense: lots of people in my housing situation will sleep for pretty much as long as staff lets them until they beat and drag them to program, where, in my experience, half the time they continue to “catch up” on their sleep, so to speak…. Although, yeah: “is/ought” is an interesting name for the problem—inside my head I had named it, “there’s airy like should, and solid like the tree and its wood”, you know…. I don’t know, for some reason, my personality type makes it easy for me to make fun of hard-ass leftists who are like, The sky should be made out of cotton candy and everyone should get to laugh and play while sleeping all day, and everyone should be sensitive: until that happens—fight! Burn! Kill! Beat! ~Destroy!~…. But yeah: I do think it should be easier for people to speak their real opinions than it really is, not least for people of less privilege or status, right….

…. Socrates is indeed “Crazy Wisdom”, and although there are certainly various real risks, it’s funny how transgressive real wisdom can be…. It’s sad what people made of Socrates, though. People with names likes X.Y.Z. Angle-kraut basically set Sockie up as the Founder of Normality, and the more facts they learned about him, the more they basically became his enemy, unknown to themselves, of course….

~we only try to solve problems or get pleasure, not to experience the question

Seeking pleasure is obviously good sometimes, and some problems need to be “solved”, but Jacob Needleman is right: if you can’t ~experience~ a question with no three-to-ten step solution, right…. And often that’s all religion is. Psychology at least tends to be honest about that. Religion is often just psychology with delusions about its identity, though, not really climbing over the hedge of the obvious, you know. “Read this book. Ask this person. Then you’ll know.” Sometimes, no matter who you talk to or what you read, the only way to really know is to experience your lack of knowledge, and then prepare to ~receive~ the answer, basically…. It’s not always the answer you already had when you didn’t know, right.

…. Incidentally, Eric mentioning Peter Kreeft, but basically being inspired by Jacob Needleman would probably be for the typical conservative, “liberal academic bias”, but although you can drop two names, you can’t fake enthusiasm or inspiration, you know. Really conservatives can make some pretty psycho liberal victimhood points when they want to, you know. Sometimes you drop two names not because they both deserve it equally, but because you deserve it—you deserve to be the teacher that hands both students a copy of the test, even though you know their responses won’t both be equally valuable, you know. Which is certainly a lot more than they did in the Middle Ages—and here, the punishment is again literally just withheld esteem, not being shot in the face by a crossbow, you know.

…. I’m going to try not to harp on the Peter Kreeft thing—especially since the actual quotes selected are fine; it’s just that I know Peter, more than I wish I did, almost—but although it’s fine and perfectly true that Socrates didn’t mind “offending” people, he also didn’t sit around thinking of clever put-downs for people, like the average theologian. Most theologians don’t care about the whole truth, only their own peculiar piece of it, you know. It’s certainly true that Socrates etc. has deeply influenced theology—they got the love of definitions from that source, maybe even the love of debate itself—but their method isn’t ~really~ that of Socrates, you know; they don’t have his amused curiosity, his detachment, even, his sense of intellectual journey or exploration—I mean, Socrates wants definitions, it’s true; but he wants them out of ~curiosity~; I don’t know a better word for it…. The theologians, considered as a group, want precise perfect truth as the only defense against perpetual torture, you know: the perpetual torture of ~being wrong~, right…. If Peter Kreeft got damned by his god, he’d spend eternity in hell hating himself, like, Of course! Of course, the answer was “B”—“B”! How could I have ever thought it was “C”, I belong here…. Like, if Peter actually met, Socrates, met the kinda unattached curiosity of this almost primeval male who thought that doing the metal equivalent of digging around in the dirt or mud with a stick, looking for something, was the only real pleasure worth having, you know—no question of aversion or even perfection, really…. I mean, he’d have to think of some put-down for a person like that: some effeminate, feeble-minded person, would be the put-down, although he’d obviously have to think of something really creative right, although only once, because he’d repeat the same put-down many times…. To the effect of, “doesn’t read Da Kwassiks”, basically, lol….

…. Rousseau I haven’t read—that’s part of the benefit of the broad view, like you have in this book, since you could spend thousands and thousands of pages reading philosophy, and at the end of it, have covered nothing but Plato’s works—but he does sound a lot like Tolstoy, who I’m far from an expert on, but whom I’ve probably read far more than anyone needs to, really. (I used to think there was something unique about Russia….). But yeah, it does sound like some of Rousseau’s ideas are good, or at least defensible: nature and the “natural” man, exercise, rough sexuality (lol), not being naive about an incredibly narrow-minded and punishing society. But there’s a lot of bad, too, it sounds like: “nature” as describes by someone who doesn’t really know it, who knows only his own antipathy for the settled life, who doesn’t know that even “primitive, natural” man had craft and exerted himself or herself against the environment, like all life; who doesn’t know that to know nature to to know something flawed, “green and grey”, not the perfect fucking god of angels, right; who doesn’t know that society has potential, even if it stubbornly refuses to use it, and that simply failing at practical life isn’t the same as being the wise, wise man who knows everything about everything and is entitled to order the children about, you know….

…. But who knows. It was an age full of thought and over-thinking; if JJR might not have known “nature”, exactly, he wasn’t averse to his passion, which is at least, a good first step.

…. I’m not sure what I think of the crabby philosopher, you know. Thoreau sounds like he was the crabby philosopher. I know what I think of the crabby philosopher, in extremis, if you know—doesn’t like anybody, kinda an awful person, but wow: do a little dance, make a little math, philosophy reasons! Philosophy reasons!: yeah, I could do without that…. But the kinda plain, decent, regular crabby philosopher: I don’t know…. I know I read the first few pages of Thoreau’s famous book, and it didn’t make much impression on me, for good or bad, really—so I shelved it. I wanted to read Thoreau; I wanted to read Plato—but I didn’t want to read much general philosophy, so I didn’t want to do either soon…. I can’t imagine myself writing a character assassination, you know, of someone who was just a little removed and affected, you know, as opposed to hostile or even exclusionist in the ‘hard’ sense of the word, right…. But I really think it’s equally important, maybe more, for people to give up the attitude of, “You’ll be allowed to have an opinion on my specialty when you’ve read the Complete Ten Thousand/Hundred Thousand Pages, you know—and until then, YOU are “pond scum”, right….”

…. I mean, Roger Scruton can go fuck himself, you know. Kant, I wouldn’t quite tell him to “ “ “ “, you know, but…. “Oh you want me to come hear you talk; I’m sorry, that’s the year I have to help my girlfriend clean her bathroom, sorry: ah, that’s my dog; he needs me; I have to go—(click)”—time waster, you know.

Thoreau doesn’t seem like a jackass, or even a time waster, but it is Very Curious, that you Can kinda detect the, the removed-and-affected, when he’s packaged as being kinda…. You know, cosmic, at the very least, and maybe even, not love, exactly, but a wise compassion greater than this world…. And maybe he was merely very clever, and very careful, you know. Which isn’t the same as being Wrong, exactly, or Unworthy, but…. I don’t know. People write these stupid character assassinations because they are very naive, basically: and the system teaches us to be very naive…. Naive person collides with reality—boom! “Pond Scum!: A New Biography of the American Prophet”. Right?

…. It is hard to ADMIRE someone’s intellect, when your view of their character is shaken, though. I don’t know. It’s a hard question.

…. Removed and affected, yeah, is the vibe.

…. And some serious digs against nature from the Thoreau fans. (waves) Oh, he was just trying to get away from people. (But not too far away.) No, nature doesn’t matter, nature is bunk. But ~~philosophy~~, wow….

Uh huh.

…. Schopenhauer is the first one here I truly really haven’t learned much at all about yet, aside from rumors, although they are interesting rumors; the chapter both makes me regret and feel, I don’t know, the opposite of regret, for getting his Very Short Introduction earlier…. I feel like Schopenhauer kinda is probably the way he looks in that one photo. Like a negative old grandfather, who’s almost charming—almost, you know, like say if you’re related to him, and you believe in family—by sheer virtue of the fact that he so completely WAS a negative old grandfather, who inhabited that role so completely, so willingly, (lol), with so little regret, you know. Most people like that hate themselves and resent society, “for making me the way I am”, right. It’s like for Arthur, considering the world essentially evil, just made perfect sense, you know. What’s there to regret in knowing the world to be perfectly evil? We have unlocked its secrets; we have found safety thereby….

…. Eric is funny.

(paragraph A) Music is everything. It’s better than the other things.

(three paragraphs later) Although of course, I don’t really get music myself. I just don’t understand it. I guess I like other things. Of course, it would be ~proper~ to like music; maybe I can teach myself….

~ Hilarious.

And it is kinda funny how people can refer to Buddhism, monastic Christianity, and rational philosophy, and then kinda go, See? The human race is agreed…. ~It’s like, Bro. 😹

Right?

But it’s not bad. It’s an excellent supplement, really. The sort of thing that would never have occurred to you, without these strange men….

…. Epicurus is certainly not the worst philosophy, but actually learning his philosophy is probably the great disappointment in general philosophy, given how it’s packaged and advertised, right. Epicurus is NOT about “how to enjoy”, right. He’s just not. He’s not a foodie. If you want a put-down, the “correct” one is the accusation of cowardice, you know. He’s not a libertine. He’s not a foodie. He’s careful—life as ‘taking care’, you know. Avoidance. Jonathan Haidt in his book where he mentions Epicurus, Jon’s happiness book—he got Epicurus perfect; reading what we have left of the Hellenistic philosopher was exactly what Jon said it would be. (I think actually I was hoping it wouldn’t be, you know—you know how you’re like, Well I haven’t read him, so these criticisms must not be true…. ~right?). Epicurus is safe. He avoids pain. He’s not even a foodie. He’s safe, comfortable. There are worse things I guess, but just…. Secure, right; safe. And he’s a coward. It’s not always bad. Epicurus is just surprisingly like the Stoics, you know. (Cf Beatles vs Stones). It’s like…. You know, it’s like, they’re both “therapeutic philosophy”, and a lot better than Kant and Hegel, but there are limits. It’s like going to the doctor. We think of doctors as being ambitious—life and death, “be a doctor or lawyer, kids”—but it’s like, doctors don’t encourage ambition, right. “At least you have your health.” “You’re lucky, Mr. Patient. You could have died.” And when you’re not going to die, you leave the hospital, right. There’s nothing else for you there.

…. But yeah: Epucureanism isn’t terrible philosophy, but it’s epically mis-marketed, really; it’s VERY similar to Stoicism. It’s Beatles vs. Stones. Sure, the Beatles are ~slightly~ more experimental and the Stones are ~slightly~ more classic: but they’re VERY similar bands. The journalists’ discourse around them is just, cracked, you know. Absolutely cracked. There’s a crack in everything, but the people who dropped the Everything had a degree, lol.

…. But yeah, diversity-wise it’s pretty good, for a general philosophy book, three Asians and two women, out of 14–oh wait; one of the Asians was a woman~ well, three Asians and three women; five people total—which isn’t as pop-rock-band-look (if you set aside, say, age), than most things that are like this…. Incidentally he does also kinda leave out some of the heavy hitters you’d expect to be in even a short list: Aristotle, Kant, Hegel; basically I guess because they’re kinda hugely complicated and rather unpersonable (especially the Germans—Kant kinda strikes me as a jackass), and I do think Eric is kinda an Enneagram Six on the edges of his territory, if you like, and more interested in the somewhat less representative of general philosophy Sixes than the core group of crazy Fives, you know…. I’m not unlike him, although I do feel like as a somewhat representative member of another generation he has a different mannerism than me. I prefer my own mannerisms, of course. Which isn’t to say that Baby Boomers are the enemy; it was just a strange time.

But yeah the funny thing about the one-third non-white-man general philosophy book is, a lot of these authors by themselves I’d not call what I call general philosophy, by themselves, you know. The Japanese lady I’d never heard of would be general literature; Simone Weil I’m under the impression of as a religious thinker, maybe some of it was this pure rationality jazz, but maybe not; Simone de Beauvoir would be women’s studies; Confucius would probably be spiritual philosophy, spiritual psychology~ maybe if the students of Plato cared something about something other than rationality there wouldn’t be that gap between general and spiritual philosophy: but then, who knows: maybe even Plato like mathematics better than channeled visions, right; Gandhi could almost be one of our computer philosophers, though, that much is true: if it were his political work, and you consider politics to be philosophy and not science: obviously he also wrote stuff that’s more like Asian studies or religion…. But yeah: it makes sense, if you LIKE general philosophy and you’re not an insane person, that you want your allies on the flanks, right, that it ~isn’t~ just white men who are unusually Anglo and unusually male, you know. But I’m not a huge advocate of it, so I’m “objective”—biased in favor of the negative, right, since many if not the bulk of “our” philosophers consider it in this other way. (Pure rationality, Nothing Else, 90-100% white men just swell.) Eric is very cute, not a bad sort at all, but I’m not sure that his topic actually exists on quite the way he’s relating it, you know. It’s an odd thing, you know. Partly maybe even I don’t want to needlessly antagonize the idiot club philosophers, but honestly also there’s the issue of being patronizing, I feel like. You know, you don’t want to go off the deep end, but including the basic corpus of white male philosophers and then including the odd paragraph or two full of hard sayings about what they look like MIGHT be more rational, than just pretending that they’re all Sinophiles or something. (Hint: they’re not.) Again, plenty of people would take that line of thought and kill themselves with it, right…. And just the patronizing of the liberal philosopher, who can’t admit to himself that his club is, arguably masculine in an abstract way—it would never appeal to all women, or even the 49% woman—and quite frankly not very fair or open even to the women who are or would have been good at it, right…. It’s just—with the best intentions—calling general philosophy something that it really isn’t, basically.

…. I feel like I’ve heard somebody refer to Simone Weil as a Christian, although I don’t know whether my sources or my memory are right. But it doesn’t sound like she was kinda a secular mindfulness psychology person, like a Jon Kabat-Zinn of a different span of decades, right. Actually an excellent example of something very poorly and/or not at all, basically integrated into the thought of “our” general philosophers, you know.

And again, not all women are classically feminine and some women are philosophers: but I feel like under patriarchy the woman-in-the-boys’-club gets so frightfully distorted as to be so masculine as to hardly be a human being, you know: in the end, accomplishing little except to basically further alienate the great bulk, the overwhelming majority, of women, from philosophy, whether considered narrowly or—almost in any way. Kisses on the cheek are disgusting and lead to bacterial infection; the world is a crazy place: I offer it my unhappiness, my sorta patronizing solidarity-misery: I’ll be the last one off the Titanic!…. I embrace the cause of feeling rotten…. And just, ~~I like being ugly~~, you know. Now, understand: most women are pressured too much to be pretty. But I feel like the majority of women would like to be pretty, and would like to live in a world where grooming was considered more honorable a thing than it is considered; I do try to shave more than I once did, and I am exploring those sorts of things—buying clothes even when my old ones don’t have holes; getting a hair cut before people insult me about looking like a cave man, right. I mean, I’m a male, and in some senses, a rather masculine one: we all start from some different place than other people. Women don’t I think like it being communicated that they’re “supposed to be” pretty, “because they’re girls”, you know. But I feel like practically all women would see embracing being ugly, basically, as more or less depression, more or less defeatism. Sometimes even rather old—is there a better word than ‘old’?—women and men want to seem “good-looking”, you know. I’m sure there are exceptions to everything, but sometimes the exceptions aren’t as numerous, or even as exceptional in a positive way, as we assume. Sometimes people are very different because they’re very hurt. At any rate, I see the “woman in philosophy” being presented as kinda the “bird without feathers” or “bird that doesn’t fly” as being a VERY problematic image, you know. ~Why~ can’t a woman just ~~be a woman~~, and also integrate the nature of rationality into who she is? Why does she have to shun her first nature, completely and totally and neurotically?…. Does that make kinda desexed hyper-brainy philosopher-type men’s men feel better, or something? Is femininity, offensive?

…. She became so masculine she got sick and died. Nothing in a body can be as masculine as she tried to be, you know, and live. (smiles) Death—nothing more masculine than that.

…. I didn’t cut my neck shaving; I’m so happy.

But yeah: I don’t throw rocks at nerds walking to school; at the same time, if your studies don’t inculcate in you the integrity or the sense of responsibility to manage one’s life, at least to the extent of being able to ~eat food when your doctors tell you you’re starving to death~…. You know, it’s like: how does that NOT cast a shadow, right? “Oh, but I pay attention.” You know, it’s similar to other philosophers—Schopenhauer wasn’t the last Anglo-type to see dharma as something to learn about in books as a curiosity/mark of learning, but not something that requires a community, influence upon daily living, or even, any practice, at all, right…. But Simone Weil is like Arthur on drugs, or something, you know. Arthur was like the Native tribesman happily crunching on a leaf, getting a little high—just a little…. And Simone was like somebody snorting line after line of cocaine until they die, basically…. I mean, it’s almost EASIER to understand death by overdose, you know. What is the BENEFIT of starving yourself to death? Practicality? You save ten or fifteen minutes of eating time or whatever for so long, and in exchange all you had to give up was several decades of working life? It’s like…. Some kind of illness, you know. That is just, ~~not how it is~~.

…. But yeah, it is funny to see the kind of woman that popes and people like that hold up as kinda the example, like: 👌 we found a good one…. It’s like oh yeah; they still alive? “No, she sacrificed herself and is dead, like Therese of Lisieux, and Jesus, and all the people who wind up dead really young, not because of drugs, but because dying just seems like…. Why do this, when I could be turning into a holy ghost, right….?” Yeah, ok…. Listen I know you were gonna come over and bring your kids over and have them play with my kids, but, (shrugs), I just forgot; we have to leave town at midnight tonight and not tell anybody where we’re going and change our phone numbers and contact info and everything. Sorry about that. It’s because I don’t like our baseball team; don’t take it personally.

👌

…. But yeah, Gandhi’s not a bad choice. I know Eric has a “therapeutic philosophy” orientation, but he’s just such a kiss-ass, I’m waiting for him to admiringly quote some guy whose thing is, (Southern Baptist preacher man) To say that man has a moral nature, is unconscionable! Man is a thinking machine! He is a thinking machine, and he was designed that way, in the Garden of Eden, by his Designer: so say we all, amen, hallelujah, let’s all be miserable together: okay.

~ That’s “our” philosophy, right. So yeah, Gandhi’s not a bad choice…. Even if I were to trim some of the non-paleface-beardies we so preciously, preciously patronize, right, I would have to keep Gandhi if I believed in this stuff enough to write about it at all, you know. Philosophers do consider themselves political thinkers; it’s not really much of a stretch at all….

…. Maybe I just know a lot about Gandhi, but the writing in that chapter doesn’t seem especially informative, you know…. I don’t know, like, it doesn’t challenge you, or add to you. It’s just…. there.

It’s funny how people like Gandhi challenge the world and add to it, and then we respond by patronizing them, you know.

…. Yeah, Confucius is somebody I’ve never read: he’s kinda languished on the bottom of the digital free samples pile, right: and on the one hand, I do feel like I could learn something from him; I don’t think I’d find him trivial or entirely false; and yet…. I mean, I realize that China was never and wasn’t intended to ever be, a purely and exclusively Confucian place, even before it basically turned into a military-run export business with no soul, right…. But yeah: I feel like I’d not get along well in some more-or-less Confucian-run town or city: I don’t even like universities, really: I always feel like my creativity and uniqueness are being leveled by the hierarchical system, you know…. I’m not even a music person really, let alone anything else, but what you see in Black-Asian cultural conflict isn’t at all irrelevant, right:

—I come from very efficient country. China very efficient! People should work!
—Man, let’s sing a song; c’mon sister, don’t be getting down on me like that.
—People should be very efficient! People should work!

And I realize that, while reverse racism isn’t really a thing—personal bullshit is a thing, but not reverse racism—it is Sorta possible to have reverse colorism, maybe, sometimes, right…. But yeah, regular colorism is a bitch, you know: so what are you gonna do?

…. But yeah: I feel like I’d like Confucius better than many theoretically love-all-book-y-book radicals, right: “Don’t jettison your parents; always dress for success; be practical.” That said, it doesn’t sound like a terribly big priority for me. It just sounds so boring; probably a little light on the compromises. I’m sure you could mine it for quotes/moments of practical brilliance, though.

But God, Eric is so weird. He’s such a kiss-ass, and yet so indecisive. He’s like, Help me obey, Master! I love all Masters! And then he notices everything bad about them, and then he says he loves them, proposes a bunch of very dubious points of agreement between very dissimilar people, and then: love ‘em, hate ‘em, not sure…. Writing mah bhoock. 🤔

…. Naturally putting aside cavils about whether lit authors are philosophers, we arrive at the fact that philosophers often do recommend general literature: but usually that kinda Shakespeare-or-Sophocles kind that has the air of And Another Thing, rather than the Meritorious Concession they put on the airs of having made, right…. And much of that remains in recommending a Japanese woman from Hundreds & Hundreds of Yeats Ago, right. Which isn’t to say that Shakespeare, Sophocles, or Asian writers are bad writers. Not at all. But it’s not like there was ever any doubt, you know. It’s VERY unbalanced—you’re a philosopher; you reach for the pince-nez and the opera glasses, right…. If they were REALLY, HONESTLY making a Grand Concession, they could have covered JoJo Moyes. It’s not bad writing: and literature does age and evolve a lot faster than philosophy, right: and even most of the ~philosophers~ are from after 1002. Toni Morrison also would have been an excellent choice, and very anti-colorist, right. And despite the relatively large number of people of color, he clearly feels like it’s the Blacks throwing their cap in with the Asians, every single time, rather than it ever being the other way around. If you’re worried about reverse colorism or the racial middle or whatever, then you could do some anime show. They do tend to appeal to nerds, right. But yeah: “everyone is meant to be a philosopher”, but philosophy is NOT meant to be about EVERYONE, right…. lol.

…. The race-gender thing is odd, so odd. Like, a Japanese girl can be a little gender-conforming and still be the Mysterious Asian Woman, not inferior, while the white woman has to be super-masculine to get philosophers to like her, even if she has to endure the hatred of football players to get there, right. But yeah, if you’re the Mysterious Asian Woman—and good and dead, too, that always helps—then you can putter around talking about flowers and nobody calls you weak, right?

…. Hearing him talk about Nietzsche should be funny: the kiss-ass, the I-like-you-in-your-book-even-though-I-would-hate-you-in-real-life, vs the ultimate disruptor, at least in the world of philosophy.

…. God, what a loser. Nietzsche did NOT crave suffering. Monks crave suffering. If Freddy wanted something it was adventure—or maybe power. You want suffering, you find the dragon, and offer him your exposed backside, right. You want power, adventure, you might laugh when he toasts your thigh, but then you stick your sword in his gut, right.

Not that a kiss-ass would know about things like that, basically.

…. But yeah: Freddy needed someone to heal him—really, physically heal him, someone to give him joy to juxtapose alongside his pain and wisdom. In a culture that had been brutally patriarchal for centuries and centuries and, incredibly, was probably becoming more so—somehow, they managed it!—he needed a woman, you know: not an ill Victorian creature, but a priestess…. The world, so caught up in the fact that they weren’t ready for Freddy, and therefore so deluded in how he had “affronted” them, as only a father-of-the-family, head-of-the-household bullshitter sort of half-“intellectual” can be, right—they never even noticed that wisdom had arrived, and that they were not prepared to nurture it, basically.

…. But yeah: he likes to refer back to previous chapters, and in light of that JoJo Moyes would have been enormously more beneficial to have covered, than that Japanese girl from the 11th century. “Me Before You” would, read honestly, and not like—ah! The 21st century! Can’t read it until the 31st century! Aaaaah!—would be enormously informative to Epictetus, and vice versa. That once upon a time, there was a wealthy Asian woman who acted in “culturally appropriate” ways, doesn’t add anything to the conversation. (Indeed, rich people who are conformist, who live in a golden cage, aren’t ~really~ better off, really, than poor people. They’re merely epically wasting an incredible opportunity.)

But the kiss-ass, just doesn’t have the courage, to do ~real~ acts of kindness, right….

…. The chapter on Epictetus isn’t especially well-written, of course, although the quote, “I had a good voyage when I was ship-wrecked” is like, gravestone-wisdom, right. Something to pass on, you know.

But yeah: I’ll have to re-read an actual Epictetus translation, and read another JoJo Moyes novel—if it seemed relevant once, right—and then maybe one day I’ll know what I think. It’s by no means an obvious problem. I’m not a loyal Stoic anymore than I’m a loyal Dharmic-Christian anymore, but it’s by no means trivial. Many people would benefit by adding Stoicism to their toolbox, although being shamed by the philosophers is no small reason why they haven’t, you know.

Wisdom is a tree. It grows slowly….

…. But yeah, as much as I respect and sometimes even like Epictetus, I feel like two Stoics on a list of 14 philosophers on the all-time list is a bit repetitive, you know. Maybe he should have read Kant or Descartes and kinda gone through, Does this shit matter?

But that takes guts. People don’t think it does, but nobody really appreciates you saying so. It’s more a scientific civilization than a philosophical one, but the basic rule is still: rationalism is what matters…. And please, dear God, don’t try to figure out what it is, right…. Mock the irrational. Don’t figure out what’s rational. Then, you’ll be on the right road. 👌

…. “Foregoing pleasure is one of life’s greatest pleasures.”

It’s true what they say about Stoicism being both Stoic and Socratic; I listened to the audiobook of Plato’s Republic; the smugness with which Socrates dismisses pleasure is highly entertaining.

I’m not sure I’d want that to be my stance anymore—well, I suppose it isn’t—but it’s entertaining. I get it. Let no critic of San Francisco liberals say that smugness has no delight, all its own, right.

…. And yeah, “How To Grow Old” is like more a chapter for say, Betty Friedan, right: the moderate, the assimilationist. Simone de Beauvoir could be a very combative thinker, and there’s no chance in hell that kiss-ass is going to reflect that. He just wants to cover himself for not saying a damn thing about the gender implications of Stoicism, even they literally told him to, Man Up, in the Rocky Mountains, you know.

Simone de Beauvoir wouldn’t appreciate that at all, you know. It’s kinda a clueless liberal who shows up in the ghetto for twenty minutes expecting a photo shoot with Malcolm X, with the delusion that Brother Malcolm is going to smile to ease whitey’s feelings, you know.

How to Grow Old with Betty Friedan, or How to Be Respected with Simone de Beauvoir. Take your pick.

…. I didn’t finish “The Second Sex”—this was years ago, during the pandemic, and as a weird intellectual~I guess that’s what so was then~ I got this weird notion in my head that I was reading too many long books I’d never finish, and it was I don’t know, “too much”, so I discarded several long books I was in the middle of. (I probably wouldn’t have understood most of them, anyway.) But yeah, even a cursory knowledge of Beauvoir reveals that this chapter has, basically nothing to do with her, right.

I don’t anticipate having much to say.

…. It’s like, it’s one thing to choose joy for your life; it’s something ~quite~ different to choose to be with someone whose goals are not joy but irony or strength or something, and to force your cheeriness on them, until you delude yourself that they Are cheery, and describe them as such to others, right.

Like, what the fuck, you know.

…. Montaigne—yeah it’s funny, I feel like I’m familiar with almost all of these people, albeit the bulk of them only obliquely. (Pessimists and perfectionists scoff at that, but it is very interesting learning enough about someone to figure out whether they’re worth a deep study for you, right.) A girl who was a poet wrote a (prose) memoir a few years ago, before she died, of what it’s like to die, which she wrote as she was dying. (It seemed kinda “readable/popular” at the time, since it was neither a 700 page history book, or a bend-your-mind-with-the-spoon book about how the world is an illusion. I kinda had a problem at the time, where I couldn’t turn off the “Serious” mode, right…. No matter how much I meditated or read about the egoic nature of mind, and all the rest of it. Sadhguru is a chauvinistic male-Indian ass when he wants to be, but at times he can be clever. Read some fucking cartoons, if that’s what you want to do! Life is God’s play…. Actually fucking enjoy it, holy shit: I’m breaking the rules.) She talked about Montaigne and Emerson a lot; I feel like she was related to Emerson. Very kinda formal, Montaigne, philosophical in the sense of the stance commonly associated with that: kinda Stoic in the loose sense that the word is often used…. So yeah, arguably three Stoics out of 14 in an all-time philosophers’ list! Kinda overkill—I feel like we’ve covered death already, you know! And the book does feel repetitive. I feel like if he’s not going to dig in and get out of his comfort zone and cover All the Greats in a way he really doesn’t—I feel like he could have cut 25-50 pages off the book, you know: instead of around 290, more like 240-265, right. Closer to 250 than 300, basically. Yeah, because for the amount of ground he covers—he covers shit if he wants, if he feels like it—there was A Lot of fluff in this to bring it up to 290, right.

…. But yeah: “To say less of yourself than is true is stupidity, not modesty.” M. de M.

He sounds like kinda a circular, meandering figure, but then, more literary philosophers do have a kinda miscellaneous character to them I find. I also find that dividing philosophy or philosophers into topics, at least as far as books go—even the very basic division of the (to put a strange use to the word) “practical” (ethical/political/aesthetic) and “speculative” (theory of knowledge, and all that crap I don’t understand, although I am not all men), ultimately kinda falls down. All the famous philosophers are the “classic” philosophers, right, and then there are the ages of the world: ancient, medieval, post-medieval. (Modern is a very strange and useless word, and especially in philosophy.) Everything else is either an interpretation of the classic philosophers (or classic philosophy topics, by regular Edgar’s and Nigel’s, usually), or a sort of history of philosophy. (This book is interpretation of philosophy and not a history, albeit a biographical rather than a topical interpretation.) But yeah, the divisions are ordinary and stupid—there really is only a difference of convention between classic and non-classic philosophers, but general philosophy is very conventional: plus the really good divisions don’t really work on the book level, since they’re are often divided and interspersed, very different sort of chapters—very commonly, it’s “how to live” and then “how to prove things” very much mingled together as though these were very similar questions, since it’s all “philosophy”: they’re much more likely to respect (if you will) the largely arbitrary divisions of history, basically…. (All us colonizers are in it together…. Except for Jacques…. Jacques said that…. And he lives over there…. And he didn’t die at the right time; it was a Tuesday….)

To review:

—Marcus Aurelius: Stoicism/Handling Loss (Part 1)
—Socrates: can’t knock the poster boy—at least we got ONE of the greats 😹
—Rousseau: like Tolstoy I think kinda an extreme thinker, who tended towards being naive and over-demanding; but then society didn’t give them the time of day, you know. “What time is it?” “(growl) Go to church…. There all wisdom will be revealed….” It’s ironic how Eric can be such a kiss-ass and say he loves these hard-ass radicals (albeit ones too dead to seem scary, I guess)
—Thoreau: another kinda naive chapter; Thoreau is probably worth reading, but these whole dialogues about HDT seem like a case study in the kinda kiss-ass vs wounded naivety we engage in over people like him.
—Schopenhauer: Schopenhauer seems really interesting, and I had heard only vague rumors (Joseph Campbell likes him) about him before. Somebody has to write a nerd witch book like: “Banishing the Will: Schopenhauer & Magic”, right. Probably the most beneficial chapter in my personal experience.
—Epicurus: Just read Jonathan Haidt’s book; he mentions the Epicureans and gets them right. Jon’s “Happiness” book.
—Simone Weil: If you know Therese of Lisieux, right. How many death-worshipping, unhealthy/died young, neurotically averse to happiness chicks did Christian Europe produce, right? Ignore the ass-kissing.
—Gandhi: I’m not sure if I didn’t learn much about Gandhi because I already sorta knew stuff about him. Not a terrible treatment.
—Confucius: I can’t remember Eric saying anything of any moment. I feel like the whole point of the chapter was to kiss-ass (to Philosophy) by writing about the great non-Lao-Tzu, right. A lot of loving something for what they’re not, leads to, vague stupid bullshit.
—Sei Shōnagon: just read a magazine, a decorating/beauty/girls’ magazine, right. Don’t love people for what they’re not. Especially if what they’re not is, “alive”, lol.
—Nietzsche: Kinda an inappropriate choice of topic for a kiss-ass. “I may support the system, but I…. Love…. You….”
—Epictetus: Stoicism/Handling Loss (Part Two)
—Beauvoir: Kinda inappropriate for a kiss-ass. I may not be a hard-ass, radical feminist…. Or a feminist, or someone who thinks about, really, ANY kind of inequality or unfair bullshit…. I have a daughter though, you know! She’s the same gender as you, Simone!
—Montaigne: Stoicism/Handling Loss (Part Three).

Also includes a weird amount of words about trains…. Literal, trains, like: choo choo…. 🚂

🙄

…. But yeah, just to kick you thought-bubble people in the ass on the way out:

“There’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Shakespeare

“There is nothing either good or bad whatever.” Crowley

I tried to look up that quote for the wording—it’s from his famous tarot book—and all I get is some television numbskull named Crowley. Fuck television. And fuck the internet…. But yeah.

There are pleasant appearances—say meditating in a peaceful graveyard next to a local church. And there are unpleasant appearances—people broadcasting their felt helplessness through anger on the internet. But there is no “good” or “bad” whatever, as people understand the words, right.

Plato or Schopenhauer at times said things equally profound to any of the more edgy types of philosophers like Castaneda, Crowley, or Sadhguru, but…. Yeah, a kiss-ass like Eric: it’s all kinda wasted on him, you know.

It’s like the school play. Nothing happens, and it’s stupid, but it’s obedient to pretend to be amused, or to act as though you were. That’s “education” in many people’s minds, basically.

The world really is my idea, and yours, and hers, and his, and theirs….

…. But God, Eric is such a neurotic Six—a pessimistic kiss-ass. “We are all doomed: the only thing left is to obey the wise ones who came before…. Though I do not imagine that, in the end, we shall escape. Death shall find us waiting in our correct, helpless, obedience.” Six is a very Christian number on the Enneagram, lol: very churchy….

…. It’s like: ok, crazy. You keep reading those books you don’t understand. Keep living the life of a fool—a fool, reversed. ~i.e. not like the let-it-go kind; the (imagine a funny dialect) Fucking idiot, kind—right.

Bye bye, crazy. Have a good life….

….. after-word: And although it’s fun to imagine Socrates as the therapist who never says, “I’m afraid that’s all the time we have”, probably halfway through The Republic he said, Listen guys, this has been a fun six hours, but my broad said she’d make me something to eat; I have to go see whether the ole bitch kept her promise, or whether she’s taken up with another man. Later. ~And in fact, I say that—“I’m afraid that’s all the time we have”—with my friends, sometimes, right. Sometimes it’s after I tell a joke and they whine about how weird it is. (I’m like, this is pop culture! ~They’re like, Things have to be gendered a particular way, mahn…..). Maybe the two events are connected: somebody will have to do an experiment, considering that Science is the ~only way~ to KNOW, right. 😉
  goosecap | Mar 21, 2024 |
Each chapter describes a different philosopher, and is introduced by a particular train trip that the author recalls. This is philosophy as therapy and finding a meaning or purpose, and is cleverly presented. The first chapter, entitled "How to Get Out of Bed", discusses Marcus Aurelius, the second "How to Wonder" is about Socrates. My favorite chapter title is "How to Have No Regrets like Nietzsche". I was happy to find uncommon philosophers discussed, such as Gandhi, Simone Weill, and Sei Shonagon. I was motivated to read some of Simon Weill, Marcus Aurelius, and to purchase The World as Will and Representation to try again to understand Schopenhauer. I was amused by the discussion of the primitive conditions of "Stoic Camp" a program of the University of Wyoming, where the author and others read Epictetus' Handbook, discussing various points around a fireplace, during a snowstorm. I marked one quote, out of many that I should have, and I also want to remember the epigram of the book, by Maurice Riseling: "Sooner or later, life makes philosophers of us all"

"This brings us to another vaccine in the Stoic dispensary: premeditatio malorum, or "premeditation of adversity". Anticipate the arrows of Fortune, says Seneca. Imagine the worst scenarios and "rehearse them in your mind: exile, torture, war, shipwreck" ( )
  neurodrew | Apr 1, 2021 |
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Retraces the journeys of forefront intellectuals from Epicurus and Gandhi to Thoreau and Beauvoir to illuminate how their practical and spiritual lessons can be applied in today's unsettled world.

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