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… the worst of all methods of acquiring knowledge, not the best of all, have taught belief in them. When one has disclosed these methods as the foundation of all extant religions and metaphysical systems one has refuted them! Then the possibility still remains over; but one can do absolutely nothing with it, not to speak of letting happiness, salvation and life depend on the gossamer of such a possibility. –For one could assert nothing at all of the metaphysical world except that it was a being-other; it would be a thing with negative qualities. –Even if the existence of such a world were never so well demonstrated, it is certain that knowledge of it would be the most useless of all knowledge: more useless even than knowledge of the chemical composition of water must be to the sailor in danger of shipwreck. (Nietzsche)
Nietzsche is skeptical of knowledge in the “real” world–the “metaphysical” world of belief, religion, and angels dancing on pins is a world for which he has little if no patience. (M.C. Gardner)
This passage exemplifies Nietzsche’s will to look life in face and accept only what can honestly be accepted: first, the human head has only itself to go on and there’s no guarantee that what goes on inside corresponds with truth; second, if there was another realm of being, it would be just that –“another” – and hence unknowable for us of this world; and third, even if it did become knowable it would do nothing to get us through this life. (Jon Ferguson)
There would be nothing that could be called knowledge if thought did not first re-form the world in this way into ‘things’, into what is self-identical. Only because there is thought is there untruth. (Nietzsche WP 574)
The ‘real world’, however one has hitherto conceived it- it has always been the apparent world once again. (Nietzsche WP 566)
All efforts toward metaphysics are limited by the human head and this head always sees “things”, things that “are”. But what is isn’t because everything is always becoming, changing, part of a great flux. I once was seated in a restaurant in Geneva across from a physicist at the CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research. I asked him about the very thing Nietzsche is talking about. “Does modern physics believe these are really such a ‘thing’ as an atom or an electron or a particle?” Continue reading Metaphysical Mush
God is dead is among the most widely known (if not the most inflammatory) declarations of the 19th century. Although all have heard it few (especially among the outraged) have read it in context:
THE MADMAN — Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!”—As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?—Thus they yelled and laughed
The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Continue reading Gott Es Tott
In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs it is the rule.
Einstein was fond of Schopenhauer’s observation that we can surely desire what we will but we can not will what we desire. Desire, be it for fig or flame, is a state of Being. And if we are quick to condemn the fruit of flame is it not because we have never truly known fire?
Nietzsche the fervent prophet of Will was also its greatest detractor:
We laugh at him who steps out of his room at the moment when the sun steps out of its room, and then says: ‘I will that the sun shall rise’; and at him who cannot stop a wheel, and says: ‘I will that it shall roll’; and at him who is thrown down wrestling, and says: ‘here I lie, but I will lie here!’ But, all laughter aside, are we ourselves ever acting any differently whenever we employ the expression ‘I will’?
Farley’s Jewel: A Novel In Search Of Being–has found one. I am delighted to disclose that I was the author’s roommate during a fondly remembered college year, early in the 1970s. Jon Ferguson is not Professor Larry Farley, “PH.D.D.E.F.G.H.I.” but rather the “omniscience” behind Farley’s thoughts and the thoughts of his students as he poses the many questions that Farley asks each to consider. Farley’s lectures and his student’s interior monologues provide one of the delightful structures of the novel. When Farley wonders if “things” exist outside of their “appearances,” he elicits the great Kant’s “Thing-in-itself.” One student is contemplating his lust for another in a confused litany of CAN’T, and KANT, and CUNT; a second is admiring the Professor’s curly hair, while yet a third is pondering why Farley appears to make the world more complicated than it “appears.”
Late in our college career, I remember Jon musing about the absurdity of discussing Being and Time with a pregnant classmate. This same absurdity dogs his Professor during a sabbatical taken to produce a computer program of Heidegger’s Dasien and in most of the conversations he has with his wife, Carol. Times change but absurdity abides. Continue reading Farley’s Jewel
Jon Ferguson’s The Anthropologist is splendid anthropology and a masterful follow up to Farley’s Jewel. In Jewel Ferguson’s Professor Larry Farley was in search of Being. More prosaically, Ferguson’s Anthropologist, Professor Leonard Fuller is in search of Leonard Fuller:
He wants to go back to the beginning, to the first moment Leonard Fuller remembers being Leonard Fuller… He doesn’t know what it was. Was it a what or was it a when? Do all whens become whats as soon as the moment passes? Are there no whens? Is temporality one of man’s lamer inventions? Is When I was a kid always What I remember about being a kid?
Farley, Fuller, and Ferguson are aging ‘boomers.’ They are each aware of their palpable decline and have the good sense not to morn their losses:
Fuller noticed that eye contact and age were inversely proportional: the older you became the less people looked at you… He knew his body was no longer appetizing…. he was certain, couldn’t stand up to other bodies she could find on the market. He was old meat; the expiation date on his label had expired… Continue reading The Anthropologist
Foster’s Depression is the latest novel that author Jon Ferguson has recently shared with me. I say latest and recently because it was written half a dozen years ago and he has probably written as many more in the interim.
The novel is a delight. It is relatively short and its plot and characters easily apprehended in a single sitting. Its themes, however, are more disquieting and will resonate with the thoughtful reader for a much more extended traversal of time.
Aside from the depression of the title numerous social maladies are observed and commented upon. Our culture’s obsession with celebrity begins the novel. Foster who has not spoken to anyone for a year and a half awakens from his catatonia and becomes a hit on the national talk show circuit. As each show limits the discussion to sound bites and the sensational, he decides to tell his story in a more illuminating media–he decides to write a novel–Foster’s Depression. Continue reading Foster’s Depression