Friday, December 07, 2007

Critical Legal Studies Jokes Aren't Funny--What is "Funny," Anyway?

SCOTT: That sign says not to use the revolving doors. But other signs tell us to use the revolving doors.

JAY: Confusing.

SCOTT: Thus the policy of the Law Center is governed by two contradictory principles: 1. Use revolving doors, and 2. Don't use revolving doors. Ergo, all law center policy is indeterminate.

Works Cited

The manner in which Arcesilaus taught would have had much to commend it, if the young men who learnt from him had been able to avoid being paralysed by it. He maintained no thesis, but would refute any thesis set up by a pupil. Sometimes he would himself advance two contradictory propositions on successive occasions, showing how to argue convincingly in favour of either.


Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Works Cited

Pyrrho's disciple Timon, however, advanced some intellectual arguments which, from the standpoint of Greek logic, were very hard to answer. The only logic admitted by the Greeks was deductive, and all deduction had to start, like Euclid, from general principles regarded as self-evident. Timon denied the possibility of finding such principles. Everything, therefore, will have to be proved by means of something else, and all argument will be either circular or an endless chain hanging from nothing. In either case nothing can be proved.


Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Works Cited

"Because my son or my wife is dead," says Teles, who was one of these popularizing Cynics, "is that any reason for my neglecting myself, who am still alive, and ceasing to look after my property?" At this point, it becomes difficult to feel any sympathy with the simple life, which has grown altogether too simple.


Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Works Slighted

I know, I know. You all want more Bertrand Russell quotes. Well, Daddy needs a little break from his intense, encyclopedic study of the entirety of western philosophy. Bertie'll be back shortly.

I'd like to include some more observations here about interesting things that have happened to me lately.

I'd like to.

Hmm.

Still, great title, eh?

Oh, thought of something. So Sweeney Todd, we all agree, is the greatest musical of all time, after WSS. And like all honest right-thinking people, I'm practically drooling at the chance to see its cinematic premiere. So interest in the music is bound to increase. Be forewarned, all of those new fans who pop up in the coming month--do not buy the original 1979 cast recording. I listened to it last night, and Angela Lansbury's accent is so over the top screechy you'll spend the entire album just praying for Sweeney to turn on her. No, go with the 2004 production with the much more talented Patti LuPone who, besides having an athletic and able voice, gives Mrs. Lovett's character a subtext of Gothic sexuality that's disturbing in all the right ways. The 2004 production is also rather peculiar in that the actors are also the sole musicians, and since there aren't many of them, the whole score has a decidedly minimalist feel. Michael Cerveris is suitably grotesque.

Works Cited

When political power passed into the hands of the Macedonians, Greek philosophers, as was natural, turned aside from politics and devoted themselves more to the problem of individual virtue or salvation. They no longer asked: how can men create a good State? They asked instead: how can men be virtuous in a wicked world, or happy in a world of suffering?


Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Works Cited

There is in Euclid the contempt for practical utility which had been inculcated by Plato. It is said that a pupil, after listening to a demonstration, asked what he would gain by learning geometry, whereupon Euclid called a slave and said "Give the young man threepence, since he must needs make a gain out of what he learns." ... No one, in Greek times, supposed that conic sections had any utility; at least, in teh seventeenth century, Galileo discovered that projectiles move in parabolas, and Kepler discovered that planets move in eclipses. Suddenly the work that the Greeks had done from pure love of theory became the key to warfare and astronomy.


Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Monday, December 03, 2007

Works Cited

If they are metaphysicians, they may hold, like Hegel, that whatever quality is good is an attribute of the universe as a whole; but they will generally add that it is less mistaken to attribute good to a State than to an individual... We can attribute to a State various predicates that cannot be attributed to its separate members--that it is populous, extensive, powerful, etc. The view we are considering puts ethical predicates in this class, and says that they only derivatively belong to individuals. A man may belong to a populous State, or to a good State; but he, they say, is no more good than he is populous. This view, which has been widely held by German philosophers, is not Aristotle's, except possibly, in some degree, in his conception of justice.


Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Works Cited

There are two uses of a thing, one proper, the other improper [says Aristotle]; a shoe, for instance, may be worn, which is its proper use, or exchanged, which is its improper use. It follows that there is something degraded about a shoemaker, who must exchange his shoes in order to live. Retail trade, we are told, is not a natural part of the art of getting wealth. The natural way to get wealth is by skillful management of house and land... Wealth derived from trade is justly hated, because it is unnatural. "The most hated sort, and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest... Of all modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural."

Medieval philosophers were churchmen, and the property of the Church was mainly in land; they therefore saw no reason to revise Aristotle's opinion. Their objection to usury was reinforced by Anti-Semitism, for most fluid capital was Jewish. Ecclesiastics and barons had their quarrels, sometimes very bitter; but they could combine against the wicked Jew who had tided them over a bad harvest by means of a loan, and considered that he deserved some reward for his thrift.


Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Works Cited

The Aristotelian view, that the highest virtue is for the few, is logically connected with the subordination of ethics to politics. If the aim is the good community rather than the good individual, it is possible that the good community may be one in which there is subordination. In an orchestra, the first violin is more important than the oboe, though both are necessary for the excellence of the whole. It is impossible to organize an orchestra on the principle of giving each man what would be best for him as an isolated individual. The same sort of thing applies to the government of a large modern State, however democratic. A modern democracy--unlike those of antiquity--confers great power upon certain chosen individuals, Presidents or Prime Ministers, and must expect of them kinds of merit which are not expected of the ordinary citizen.


Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Works Cited

A father can repudiate his son if he is wicked [says Aristotle], but a son cannot repudiate his father, because he owes him more than he can possibly repay, especially existence. In unequal relations, it is right, since everybody should be loved in proportion to his worth, that the inferior should love the superior more than the superior loves the inferior: wives, children, subjects, should have more love for husbands, parents, and monarchs than the latter have for them...

The best individual, as conceived by Aristotle, is a very different person from the Christian saint. He should have proper pride, and not underestimate his own merits. He should despise whoever deseerves to be despised. The description of the proud or magnanimous man is very interesting as showing the difference between pagan and Christian ethics, and the sense in which Nietzsche was justified in regarding Christianity as a slave-morality.


Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy