Wednesday, October 26, 2011

honor and spoons (2)

Boswell: I added that the same person maintained that there was no distinction between virtue and vice. Johnson: "Why, Sir, if the fellow does not think as he speaks, he is lying; and I see not what honour he can propose to himself from having the character of a liar. But if he does really think that there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, Sir, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons."
--Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Credulity (2)

Philosophers and bookish people generally tend to live a life dominated by words, and even to forget that it is the essential function of words to have a connection of one sort or another with facts, which are in general non-linguistic. Some modern philosophers have gone so far as to say that words should never be confronted with facts but should live in a pure, autonomous world where they are compared only with other words. When you say, ‘the cat is a carnivorous animal,’ you do not mean that actual cats eat actual meat, but only that in zoology books the cat is classified among carnivora. These authors tell us that the attempt to confront language with fact is ‘metaphysics’ and is on this ground to be condemned. This is one of those views which are so absurd that only very learned men could possibly adopt them.
Bertrand Russell, My Philosophical Development (1959)

cf. Orwell, Notes On Nationalism

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bertrand Russell on Hegel (3) - a similar joke

Hegel believed in a mystical entity called "Spirit", which causes human history to develop according to the stages of the dialectic as set forth in Hegel's Logic. Why Spirit has to go through these stages is not clear. One is tempted to suppose that Spirit is trying to understand Hegel, and at each stage rashly objectifies what it has been reading.
A History of Western Philosophy, "Modern Philosophy", "Karl Marx"

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A bit of humor from Orwell

(emphasis added)
Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all "progressive" thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security, and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues.

The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won’t do.

Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flag and loyalty-parades…. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a grudging way, have said to people "I offer you a good time," Hitler has said to them "I offer you struggle, danger and death," and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet.
George Orwell, from a review of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, New English Weekly (21 March 1940)

Grammar in 1846



...I propose to give you a few hints on conversation...

...for some of the new grammars sanction these vulgarisms, and in looking over their tables of irregular verbs, I have sometimes half expected to have the book dashed from my hand by the indignant ghost of Lindley Murray.

Great care and discretion should be employed in the use of the common abbreviations of the negative forms of the substantive and auxiliary verbs. "Can't", "don't", and "havn't" [sic], are admissible in rapid conversation on trivial subjects. "Isn't" and "hasn't" are more harsh, yet tolerated by respectable usage. "Didn't", "couldn't", "wouldn't", and "shouldn't", make as unpleasant combinations of consonants as can well be uttered, and fall short but by one remove of those unutterable names of Polish gentlemen, which sometimes excite our wonder in the columns of a newspaper. "Won't" for "will not", and "aint" [sic] for "is not" or "are not", are absolutely vulgar; and "aint" [sic], for "has not" or "have not", is utterly intolerable...