History of Philosophy – Lesson 6: Atomism and the Death of Mind

“If there’s no such thing as a mind capable of observing evidence and reasoning according to the laws of logic, then every man’s conclusions express nothing but blind mechanistic reactions. Each man is then a machine — he’s a physical puppet guided by the laws of motion. […] He’s a little billiard ball system, in effect, rattling and quivering by mechanistic necessity.”
— Leonard Peikoff, “History of Philosophy” course, ARI, Lesson 6.
(Materialism implies determinism, which, in turn, denies the mind. I wonder how a mind could have had the idea of denying itself. Original source of the image: Min Then.)

The Pythagoreans attempted to solve the problem raised by Heraclitus and Parmenides by postulating two worlds: one in constant flux, this world; and one eternal and immutable, the world of number. The Atomists attempted a very different reconciliation. In the process, they made possible the birth of modern science. They also caused the destruction of the mind.

Continue reading

The Forgotten Book of the “Metaphysics”

Aristotle’s “Metaphysics” begins by saying that “All men by nature desire to know.” He, of course, regarded as “men” a select few — the Greek citizens — not the majority of the Greek people made up of slaves — beings who had allowed themselves to be conquered, inferior beings — much less the non-Greek barbarians. Perhaps the problem is precisely this: most of us must be descended from slaves, and as Will Durant put it, it must have been slavery that prepared us for the habit of toil. If this were not the case, we wouldn’t work so hard and think so little. Because when I look around me, I do not see many people interested in knowing. In fact, I see almost no one.

Continue reading

Despicable Mourning

“We are in mourning. For ALL the lost lives in Rio de Janeiro during these 39 days of 2019, we are in mourning.
For the six dead after the storm.
For the ten dead in the fire in the Vulture’s Nest.
For the thirteen dead in the police operation in the Favela of the Pleasures.
And for all the dead that didn’t make it to the news.”

(I don’t understand the world I live anymore. Innocent or criminal, you are all the same.)

Six people died because of heavy rains that ravaged Rio two days ago. Yesterday, just before dawn, ten youths between the ages of fourteen and sixteen were burned alive in a fire at the Flamengo training center. Shortly after, thirteen armed criminals were killed by the police in a violent favela. What, besides the Angel of Death hovering in the skies, is common among all three cases? According to one of the city’s largest newspapers and, of course, to a bunch of idiots across social networks, the answer is obvious: EVERYONE is a poor innocent victim.

Continue reading

O.P.A.R. – Commentary: Floating Abstractions Eventually Fall

“All knowledge is interconnected. To cut off a single field — any field — from the rest of cognition is to drop the vast context which makes that field possible and which anchors it to reality. The ultimate result, as with any failure of integration, is floating abstractions and self-contradiction.”
Leonard Peikoff, “O.P.A.R.”, page 127.
(The Hindenburg disaster. This is just a visual metaphor for a floating abstraction: when the context is dropped and reality sets in, concepts become a dangerous thing.)

Earlier when I talked about epistemological evasion I mentioned our mental laziness, how we avoid the effort to think correctly because it hurts. The problem is that if we really go through each idea thoroughly, we become responsible for it when we use it, and that is something we hate. This may sound offensive, but I have no doubt that this is the case with the vast majority of us, during the vast majority of our waking time. Of course, I include myself in this team of evaders.

Continue reading

O.P.A.R. – Chapter 4: Objectivity


“Mr. Chamberlain treated Hitler’s demand as an isolated fact to be dealt with by an isolated response; to do this, he had to drop an immense amount of knowledge. […] The prime minister wanted ‘peace at any price.’ The price included the evasion of political philosophy, history, psychology, ethics, and more. The result was war.”
Leonard Peikoff, “O.P.A.R.”, pages 124-125.
(Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returns to Great Britain after signing the Munich Agreement, effectively handing Czechoslovakia to Hitler. Any new knowledge, proposal or idea must always be integrated to its full context, which is ultimately the sum of available knowledge. Such all-encompassing integration, far from being easy, demands a lot of effort, but is made possible through philosophy. The price of not heeding to it can be war. “Combat as philosophy of life – Philosophy as only alternative to combat.”)

According to Leonard Peikoff, objectivity means accepting that “thinking, to be valid, must adhere to reality”. Concepts do not belong only to consciousness or only to existence. They are the product of a specific type of relationship between the two, guided by a human method: logic.

Continue reading

The Why of Fiction

I have this desire to write about my life. It sounds egocentric and it probably is a bit, but I do think there is a lot to tell — if only I could learn the lessons. The truth is that it is hard to face the truth. So I thought trying to write fiction might be a way to make it easier. Maybe by pretending I am writing about someone else — someone who doesn’t even exist — mixing personalities here and there, adding whatever details I find interesting, I might actually be able to analyze my life instead of forever evading the task. The problem is that I know next to nothing about the craft of writing fiction.

Continue reading

Fuck it! You Perfectionist Fool

With me it’s always pain or pleasure. Always fleeing or diving headfirst. I said that if I changed the plans, I would be accepting defeat. So what? I’ll say it as straightforward as possible: Ten years ago, I left my best friend to die on the battlefield. I never accepted that defeat. I simply evaded it. And now I want to do the same with this seemingly much more foolish situation. Now, it’s only about my character; there are no lives involved besides mine. I want to lose and not accept. This is pure evasion — again. Fuck it! I’m going to lose, but I’m going to change and adapt. I should have done it ten years ago. I’m going to start doing it now.

Continue reading