Some philosophy courtesy ‘The Excavator”


The previous post reblogged from TIP belonged to the site “The Excavator“, hosted by

Viewing the article revealed his website’s sidebar, replete with an impressive array of philosophical gems. I reproduce them here with due acknowledgment and, I hope, his approval. I also hope that readers enjoy them and understand their meaning and relevance.

Fiat justitia ruat caelum

“The human word is neither immortal nor invulnerable; but it is the power that orders our chaos, and the light by which we live.” – Northrop Frye: Northrop Frye’s Writings on Education; pg. 85.
“Take away fear, and the battle of Freedom is half won.” – William Ralph Inge: The End of an Age; pg. 150.
“At long last, however, I feel that I have come to some understanding of why man is the most fortunate of living things and, consequently, deserving of all admiration; of what may be the condition in the hierarchy of beings assigned to him, which draws upon him the envy, not of the brutes alone, but of the astral beings and of the very intelligences which dwell beyond the confines of the world. A thing surpassing belief and smiting the soul with wonder. Still, how could it be otherwise? For it is on this ground that man is, with complete justice, considered and called a great miracle and a being worthy of all admiration.” – Giovanni Pico della Mirandola: Oration on the Dignity of Man.

“And again, hast thou valued Patience, Courage, Perseverance, Openness to light; readiness to own thyself mistaken, to do better next time?” – Thomas Carlyle: Past and Present; pg. 198.

“No limit, no definition, may restrict the range or depth of the human spirit’s passage into its own secrets or the world’s.” – Goethe: Scientific Studies; pg. 37.
“Common sense is neither priestcraft nor state policy.” – William Hazlitt: The Fight and Other Writings; pg. 531.
“The Truth, when you finally chase it down, is almost always far worse than your darkest visions and fears.” – Hunter S. Thompson: Kingdom of Fear; pg. 220.
“Anyone who shirks the labors, sacrifices, and dangers that his people must undergo is a coward. But no less a coward and traitor is the man who betrays the principles of thought to material interests, who, for example, is willing to let the holders of power decide how much is two times two. To sacrifice intellectual integrity, love of truth, the laws and methods of thought to any other interest, even that of the fatherland, is treason. When in the battle of interests and slogans the truth, like the individual, is in danger of being devalued, disfigured, and trampled under foot, our one duty is to resist and to save the truth–or rather, the striving for truth–for that is our highest article of faith.” – Hermann Hesse: Reflections; pg. 5.
“For in this world of lies, Truth is forced to fly like a scared white doe in the woodlands; and only by cunning glimpses will she reveal herself, as in Shakespeare and other masters of the great Art of Telling the Truth,–even though it be covertly, and by snatches.” – Herman Melville: Hawthorne and His Mosses.
“We are living in a demented world. . . Everywhere there are doubts as to the solidity of our social structure, vague fears of the imminent future, a feeling that our civilization is on the way to ruin. They are not merely the shapeless anxieties which beset us in the small hours of the night when the flame of life burns low. They are considered expectations founded on observation and judgment of an overwhelming multitude of facts. How to avoid the recognition that almost all things which once seemed sacred and immutable have now become unsettled, truth and humanity, justice and reason? We see forms of government no longer capable of functioning, production systems on the verge of collapse, social forces gone wild with power. The roaring engine of this tremendous time seems to be heading for a breakdown. But immediately the antithesis forces itself on our minds. Never has there been a time when men were so clearly conscious of their commanding duty to co-operate in the task of preserving and improving the world’s well being and human civilization.” – Dutch historian Johan Huizinga: In The Shadow of Tomorrow; pg. 15-16.
“Heroism means going out of bounds. In this world things must go out of bounds from time to time. One comes here again to the point in one’s thinking where judgment must remain inconclusive. No one can desire that the world continue to muddle along in every respect in the groove into which imperfect laws and even more imperfect behavior have pushed it. Without heroic intervention no Council of Nicaea, no dethronement of the Merovingians, no conquest of England, no Reformation, no revolt of the Netherlands, no free America. The thing that counts is who intervenes, how and in the name of what. Expressed in medical terms it may well be that our time is in need of heroic treatment, provided it is administered by the proper physician and in the proper manner.” – Johan Huizinga: In The Shadow of Tomorrow; pg. 167.

“Power is going to defend you against the enemy. If you don’t believe in the enemy then you don’t believe in the power.” – Arthur Miller.

“There are two parts to the human dilemma. One is the belief that the end justifies the means. That push-button philosophy, that deliberate deafness to suffering, has become the monster in the war machine. The other is the betrayal of the human spirit: the assertion of dogma that closes the mind, and turns a nation, a civilization, into a regiment of ghosts–obedient ghosts or tortured ghosts.” – Jacob Bronowski.

“Most creatures take the world outside as they find it and instinctively become partners with the environment. Man is the one creature who can alter himself and his surroundings, as the geologist John Hodgdon Bradley has wisely observed, yet he is perhaps the most seriously maladjusted of all living creatures.

He is the one creature who is able to accumulate verifiable knowledge about himself and his environment, and yet he is the one who is habitually deluded. No other animal produces verbal monsters in his head and projects them on the world outside his head. Language is apparently a sword which cuts both ways. With its help man can conquer the unknown; with it he can grievously wound himself.” – Stuart Chase: The Tyranny of Words; pg. 13-14.

“A lie may achieve victory when truth is afraid of its own strength.” – Albert Camus: Camus at Combat; pg. 38.

“Anyone who has the slightest understanding of how cultures work knows that defining a culture, saying what it is for members of the culture, is always a major, and even in undemocratic societies, a democratic contest. There are canonical authorities to be selected and regularly revised, debated, re-selected, or dismissed. There are ideas of good and evil, belonging or not belonging (the same and the different), hierarchies of value to be specified, discussed, re-discussed, and settled or not, as the case may be. Moreover, each culture defines its enemies, what stands beyond it and threatens it. For the Greeks beginning with Herodotus, anyone who did not speak Greek was automatically a barbarian, an Other to be despised and fought against. An excellent recent book by the French classicist Francois Hartog, The Mirror of Herodotus, shows how deliberately and painstakingly Herodotus sets about constructing an image of a barbarian Other in the case of the Scythians, more even than in the case of the Persians.

The official culture is that of priests, academics, and the state. It provides the definitions of patriotism, loyalty, boundaries, and what I have called belonging. It is this official culture that speaks in the name of the whole, that tries to express the general will, the general ethos and idea which inclusively holds in the official past, the founding fathers and texts, the pantheon of heroes and villains, and so on, and excludes what is foreign or different or undesirable in the past. From it come the definitions of what may or may not be said, those prohibitions and proscriptions that are necessary to any culture if it is to have authority.

It is also true that in addition to the mainstream, official, or canonical culture, there are dissenting or alternative unorthodox, heterodox cultures that contain many anti-authoritarian strains that compete with the official culture. These can be called the counter-culture, an ensemble of practices associated with various kinds of outsiders–the poor, the immigrants, artistic bohemians, workers, rebels, artists. From the counter-culture comes the critique of authority and attacks on what is official and orthodox. The great contemporary Arab poet Adonis has written a massive account of the relationship between orthodoxy and heterodoxy in Arabic culture and has shown the constant dialectic and tension between them. No culture is understandable without some sense of this ever-present source of creative provocation from the unofficial to the official; to disregard this sense of restlessness within each culture, and to assume that there is complete homogeneity between culture and identity, is to miss what is vital and fecund.” – Edward Said: The Clash of Definitions.

“The powers that be not only try to control events, but they try to control our memory and understanding of these events, which is part of controlling the events themselves.” – Michael Parenti.

“We live now in an era where normal values have been displaced. The good is called bad, the bad – good.” – Anna Politkovskaya.

“The struggle of freedom against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” – Milan Kundera.

“All the power and policy of man cannot continue a system long after its truth has ceased to be acknowledged, or an establishment long after it has ceased to contribute to utility. It is equally vain, as to expect to preserve a tree, whose roots are cut away. It may look as green and flourishing as before for a short time, but its sentence is passed, its principle of life is gone, and death is already within it.” – Anna Letitia Barbauld: Selected Poetry & Prose; pg. 275-276.

“If there is no free conversation human aggression accumulates. A man who listens only to his radio or is caught by the hypnotism of the movies must discharge his aggression somewhere else. But the civilizing sublimation of conversation does not reach him, so he cannot get rid of his aggression.

People have learned to be silent listeners. Dictatorship asks only for silent citizens. If man cannot redeem himself of his everyday tensions through words, the archaic primitive demands within him grow more and more awake. The world falls prey to his accumulated obsessions, and in the end collective madness breaks through. Let us talk now, so that we do not become mad animals!” – Joost A. M. Meerloo: Conversation and Communication.

“Puzzlement and doubt are, however, already crimes in the totalitarian state. The mind that is open for questions is open for dissent. In the totalitarian regime the doubting, inquisitive, and imaginative mind has to be suppressed. The totalitarian slave is only allowed to memorize, to salivate when the bell rings.” – Joost A. M. Meerloo: The Rape of The Mind.

“Man is a peeping, prying discoverer of secrets.” – Joost A. M. Meerloo.

“To governments that control with fear, the truth is the enemy of the state. Propaganda, censorship, and mass mind control produce homogenized thinking conforming to the will of the Controllers.” – Tarra Light: Angel of Auschwitz: A Spiritual Memoir of Forgiveness & Healing; Pg. 187.

“The assault upon the rationality and responsibility of man is as old, at least, as Mephistopheles.” – Floyd W. Matson: The Folklore of Mass Persuasion.

“Those who lack all idea that it is possible to be wrong can learn nothing except know-how.” – Gregory Bateson: Mind and Nature; pg. 26.

“We have got to defeat this attack on the freedom of the mind…But it takes courage for a young man with a family to stand up to it; all the more obligation on those of us who have nothing left to lose. At any age it is better to be a dead lion than a living dog – though better still, of course, to be a living and victorious lion – but it is easier to run the risk of being killed (or fired) in action if before long you are going to be dead anyway. This freedom seems to me the chief consolation of old age.” – Elmer Davis: Grandeur and the Miseries of Old Age.

“And you, chiefs and governors of the people! before dragging the masses into the quarrels resulting from your diverse opinions, let the reasons for and against your views be given. Let us establish one solemn controversy, one public scrutiny of truth — not before the tribunal of a corruptible individual, or of a prejudiced party, but in the grand forum of mankind — guarded by all their information and all their interests. Let the natural sense of the whole human race be our arbiter and judge.” – C. F. Volney: The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires and the Law of Nature.

“We are living through times where evil has manifested itself with an almost revelation-like obtrusiveness and power. We have learned to understand the medieval legends about monks who, being vouchsafed a glimpse into hell, would never smile or speak again. The apocalyptic beast let loose has become a reality to our generation, and nobody knows what is still ahead of us.” – R. J. Zwi Werblowsky: Lucifer and Prometheus: A Study of Milton’s Satan.

“Conscience in those that have it is unequivocal. It is the voice of God. Our judgment of right & wrong is Reason.” – William Blake.

“The sons of Adam are limbs of each other,
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time affects one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If thou hast no sympathy for the troubles of others
Thou art unworthy to be called by the name of a human.” – Saadi.

“Oh Zeus Universal, if you hear our song,
Show us again your immortal power
In this darkest hour.” – Sophocles: Oedipus the King.

About Ken McMurtrie

Retired Electronics Engineer, most recently installing and maintaining medical X-Ray equipment. A mature age "student" of Life and Nature, an advocate of Truth, Justice and Humanity, promoting awareness of the injustices in the world.
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