Richibi’s Weblog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Category: philosophy

on courage

aristotle-jpglarge

     “Socrates” 

            Luca Giordano

                    __________

  

following in the footsteps of Socrates,
who, I agree with the Oracle, has been 
ever the wisest man, one whose example 
I’ve followed since first hearing of him, let 
me query, what is courage 

a tentative definition would have one 
stating that courage is a determination
to overcome danger

but to use my own example, being called
courageous for surviving an aneurysm,
would this instance have qualified

where was my determination, apart from
waiting, submissively, for the axe to fall,
or to not fall, I felt no fear, merely time 
passing, not an ounce of determination

but what of those others who endure 
the pain often associated with dying,
agony, is that not a kind of enforced 
courage

so did I qualify

an aneurysm swells the blood vessels 
to the brain as the brain heals, but 
meanwhile the heart pumps a rhythmic
tattoo on those passages rendered 
more tenderso that a throbbing 
anguish is ever drumming its drill 
upon the cerebrum of the sufferer 

perhaps I did qualify

but Socrates brings up an interesting 
objection, can animals be brave, it 
would seem not, therefore courage 
requires self-consciousness, whether 
or not it is defiant or compliant 

and what about defiance before a lost 
cause, is that courage or doomed 
bombast

Aristotle adds to the mix the notion 
of a noble cause, not merely an 
instinctive, however, in the event, 
morally prompted, position

so what is courage, you tell me

I say that you know it when you see
it, the courageous act defines the 
word, not the other way around,

much like flowers are the result of 
their own efflorescence, not the 
manifestation of a preset Ideal

you are the measure of your own 
words

for better or for worse

Richard

psst: it is interesting to note that 
          according to the Bible, in the 
          beginning was the Word
          John 1:1, a convenient  tool  
          to impose order

Advertisements

Aristotle, an objection

school-of-athens-detail-from-right-hand-side-showing-diogenes-on-the-steps-and-euclid-1511.jpg!Large

      “The School Of Athens (1510 – 1511) 

               Raphael

_______

upon reviewing my Socrates, Plato, and
Aristotle from a series of university  
lectures I’ve been following, I came upon 
a discovery so egregious, I couldn’t
believe I hadn’t seen it before, the old
story of the forest and the trees, I guess

upon hearing that the Oracle at Delphi
had replied that it was Socrates to those 
who’d wondered who the wisest man
was, Socrates, abashed, began to seek 
out wise men to disprove the Oracle, 
but whenever Socrates asked of them
what is virtue, what is justice, what is 
knowledge, for instance, the answers 
were always inconclusive, they always 
seemed to depend on perspective –
virtue, justice, knowledge were in the 
eye of the beholder – though Plato 
later putting in his own definitions
called them Ideals, a chair partook,
for instance, of an overarching 
chairness somewhere, as did indeed 
virtue, knowledge and justice, which 
inferred another ideal universe 
contiguously, of which our own 
universe supplied only imperfect 
renditions

you can hear the seeds of Heaven and 
God already in all of that, way before 
Christianity, not to mention Original 
Sin

it also suggests an implacable order

Socrates wouldn’t’ve liked that

but Aristotle, with a much more critical 
mind than Plato’s, less speculative, more 
akin to Socrates’, less autocratic, more 
inquisitive, begins to try to define,
nevertheless, abstractions, virtue, 
knowledge, justice, as though they
indeed existed as ideals

this is putting the cart before the horse,
I thought, in the form of a revelation

an instance exists in the act of creation,
a physical transformation produces a 
flower, the flower doesn’t happen 
because of the word

a human example

for surviving an aneurysm once, someone, 
to my astonishment, had called me 
courageous, I’d been, I thought, only
surviving, not an inch of courage, not 
even a millimetre

courage, I surmised, is in the eye of the 
beholder, it is not at all a template, an 
absolute, in my experience 

Aristotle goes on to define a host of
Virtues, indeed 11, which come out as 
essentially his Eleven Commandments,
on, in fact, courage, among others, all 
essentially, and appropriately, moral, 
thereby creating the moral realm of 
our Western world

Jesus followed

and of course God and Heaven

which, of course, still prevail despite 
sound, sober objections

as though we could know

why is this important

because, I think, we must remember 
that our assumptions are only that,
and often they’re based on only what 
we’ve been told, which is already a 
step away from incorrect 
interpretation 

in the world of false news, check 
your references, check your very 
words, our lives, it isn’t too much 
to say, I believe, depend on it

not to mention our own personal 
moral code, our soul, our purpose 
for being, which every wo/man 
must oversee for hirself

if one has the courage 

Richard

on truth

the-blank-signature-1965(1).jpg!Large

        La carte blanche” (“The Blank Signature”) (1965) 

              René Magritte

                 _________

being part of the truth, or Truth, we can’t 
see the forest for the trees, ever

Richard

 

 

“Is Art Truth?”

paradise-jpglarge

  “Paradise” 

        Hieronymus Bosch

                   __________

Is Art Truth?“, a friend asks after speaking of 
its benefits, “Art accepts and tells the truth-Is
that it ?“, she inquires, wonders

art, like truth itself and beauty, is in the eye 
of the beholder, I submit, and therefore my 
definition is, once again, entirely personal, 
though I’ve rigorously plumbed it

it requires background

art died for a thousand years, it was 
essentially unrecorded, dormant from 
the fall of Rome to the Renaissance, nor 
promoted but for Catholic purposes, 
hence the majestic cathedrals and the 
magisterial altarpieces, works produced 
by, however, communities until eventually 
certain artisans were recognized as more 
inspired than others, and given autonomy

enter Duccio, for instance

in time these new, necessarily idiosyncratic
perspectives – see Hieronymus BoschDante
Alighieri – dominated, veering in their search 
for truth in their art and beauty – selling points,
incidentally – towards less strictly orthodox 
utterances

see above

art, and its contemporary science, were 
chipping away at ecclesiastical dogma

till God died, and artists continued their 
prescient march forward, shaping our 
zeitgeist, our spirit of the times, with 
their pronouncements for lack of any 
other guides

but the voices grew personal, see Mozart
often profound and prophetic, see 
Beethoven, till the confluence of disparate 
realities gave us secularism, each soul for 
itself as a tenet, a credo, a belief, a truth

what did they have in common

I believe it was their quest for beauty 
through truth, their quest for truth 
through beauty, with a nod here to 
the salient Keats 

art is prayer, a search for, as well as a 
manifestation of, one’s personal 
identification with the sacred

it is not truth, it is not beauty, it is the 
fervent intention itself, linked with a 
correspondent workmanship, craft, 
which inspires 

see for instance van Gogh for this, who, 
remember, nevertheless shot himself, 
artists are mortal, merely, messengers, 
ever, therefore, fallible, unsure, fearful 
even, often, of their, perhaps 
Promethean, fire

for consolation, or even maybe 
transcendence, see again,
pertinently here, Beethoven  

listen

Richard

psst: thanks, Joan

what, me worry

philosophy-final-state-1907-jpglarge

    “Philosophy (Final State) (1899-1907) 

         Gustav Klimt

              ______

at lunch recently, a friend was telling 
me about taking her family, kids,
grandkids, to Hawaii

I hope we have a good time, she said

what do you mean, I hope, I asked 

I’ve been worrying a lot lately, I wake 
up in the middle of the night, I worry
about sharks, for instance, off the 
coast of Maui

I know what you mean, I answered, I
worry about an earthquake hitting 
while I’m asleep, the whole city does 
in fact, I confirmed, those here who 
worry

when I was going to Munich in December 
and January with my mother, I continued, 
and people were saying it’d be cold, 
determined that we’d have a wonderful 
time despite whatever obstacles we might 
encounter, I meant it as a gift to my mother, 
after all it was for the magic of the C***mas 
and New Year’s Eve festivities there we 
were going, kind of like your Hawaiian 
beaches, I pointed out

there was the uncomfortable flight over,
the usual stomach upsets, cold and 
snow, which I hadn’t experienced in 
several years, an unruly Internet 
connection, but they were the price of 
admission to the wonderland I’d 
determined to fashion out of the 
elements that we’d find there, and did  

there were neither sharks nor earthquakes 
eventually, nor even the terrorist attacks 
that had threatened, but that no amount of 
worrying anyway could’ve done anything 
about 

and I just read something out of the New 
Yorker, I continued, that put me back on 
track, put everything back together again 
before any great existential fall

it’s all in your head, it said, or rather it
quoted EpictetusEpictetus, the Stoic 
philosopher I’ve always profoundly 
admired, I said, I’ll send it to you, the 
articleStoicism was a way of facing 
the world bravely and seeing it as a 
condition of your worth

is still a way, I extrapolated

also I’ve found that focussing on what
you’ve been worrying about, and 
thinking about what you can do about 
it, helps

about sharks, for instance, what would 
you do – don’t go in the water – after 
which there isn’t much else to think 
about but go on to the next problem 

meanwhile, you’re not worrying, but 
actually being productive, and reducing 
everything to what you can indeed do,
which ends up being most often not 
much

pray for grace, I’ve been telling myself
for the longest while, and make sure 
your tie ‘s on right, that’s all you 
can ever do, I repeat to myself, and to 
anyone who’ll listen, like an incantation, 
a refrain

but still I take my anti-depressants just 
in case, I said

we drank to Stoicism

afterwards we saw a new play about 
Queen Elizabeth

Richard

psst: the New Yorker article 

    How To Be a Stoic

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus was born a slave, around 55 A.D., in the Greco-Roman spa town of Hierapolis—present-day Pamukkale, Turkey. I first encountered his teachings in 2011, shortly after moving from San Francisco to Istanbul. I lived alone on a university campus in a forest. In the midst of a troubled long-distance relationship, I sometimes went days without talking to anyone but my boyfriend’s disembodied head on Skype. I was demoralized by Turkish politics, which made both secularists and religious people feel like victims. If you were a woman, no matter what you were wearing—décolleté or a head scarf—someone would give you a dirty look.

The first line of Epictetus’ manual of ethical advice, the Enchiridion—“Some things are in our control and others not”—made me feel that a weight was being lifted off my chest. For Epictetus, the only thing we can totally control, and therefore the only thing we should ever worry about, is our own judgment about what is good. If we desire money, health, sex, or reputation, we will inevitably be unhappy. If we genuinely wish to avoid poverty, sickness, loneliness, and obscurity, we will live in constant anxiety and frustration. Of course, fear and desire are unavoidable. Everyone feels those flashes of dread or anticipation. Being a Stoic means interrogating those flashes: asking whether they apply to things outside your control and, if they do, being “ready with the reaction ‘Then it’s none of my concern.’ ”

Reading Epictetus, I realized that most of the pain in my life came not from any actual privations or insults but, rather, from the shame of thinking that they could have been avoided. Wasn’t it my fault that I lived in such isolation, that meaning continued to elude me, that my love life was a shambles? When I read that nobody should ever feel ashamed to be alone or to be in a crowd, I realized that I often felt ashamed of both of those things. Epictetus’ advice: when alone, “call it peace and liberty, and consider yourself the gods’ equal”; in a crowd, think of yourself as a guest at an enormous party, and celebrate the best you can.

Epictetus also won me over with his tone, which was that of an enraged athletics coach. If you want to become a Stoic, he said, “you will dislocate your wrist, sprain your ankle, swallow quantities of sand,” and you will still suffer losses and humiliations. And yet, for you, every setback is an advantage, an opportunity for learning and glory. When a difficulty comes your way, you should feel proud and excited, like “a wrestler whom God, like a trainer, has paired with a tough young buck.” In other words, think of every unreasonable asshole you have to deal with as part of God’s attempt to “turn you into Olympic-class material.” This is a very powerful trick.

Much of Epictetus’ advice is about not getting angry at slaves. At first, I thought I could skip those parts. But I soon realized that I had the same self-recriminatory and illogical thoughts in my interactions with small-business owners and service professionals. When a cabdriver lied about a route, or a shopkeeper shortchanged me, I felt that it was my fault, for speaking Turkish with an accent, or for being part of an élite. And, if I pretended not to notice these slights, wasn’t I proving that I really was a disengaged, privileged oppressor? Epictetus shook me from these thoughts with this simple exercise: “Starting with things of little value—a bit of spilled oil, a little stolen wine—repeat to yourself: ‘For such a small price, I buy tranquillity.’ ”

Born nearly two thousand years before Darwin and Freud, Epictetus seems to have anticipated a way out of their prisons. The sense of doom and delight that is programmed into the human body? It can be overridden by the mind. The eternal war between subconscious desires and the demands of civilization? It can be won. In the nineteen-fifties, the American psychotherapist Albert Ellis came up with an early form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, based largely on Epictetus’ claim that “it is not events that disturb people, it is their judgments concerning them.” If you practice Stoic philosophy long enough, Epictetus says, you stop being mistaken about what’s good even in your dreams. 

                                                                                                 Elif Batuman

true love – an insight

love-s-scerets-1896-jpglarge

                          “Love’s Secrets (1896) 

                    William-Adolphe Bouguereau

                                     _________

the only way you can hate someone 
you’ve loved is if your love was selfish,
true love can never not love, ever

Richard

 

the judgment of richibi

the-judgment-of-paris-1.jpg!Large.jpg

        “The Judgment Of Paris (1625) 

                         Peter Paul Rubens

                                       ___________

at the end of a long overdue visit to 
friend’s home the other night, she 
asked me, did you notice their facial
skin, which of us do you think had 
the best complexion, you can be 
honest, she insisted

we had intended to watch the finals
of a voice competition we’d both 
been following, over a glass of 
wine, or two, each, when a friend 
called, from, essentially, the door,
with a second friend in tow on their
way to a concert in the city

the friend of the friend, a lovely,
effervescent woman, from Poland
originally, with a story to tell of
growing up behind the Iron 
Curtain, was also a beautician in 
spa she runs in a nearby resort
city

the first friend, equally effervescent, 
had been telling my own friend of the 
intervening events since last they’d  
met, while I lapped up, more or less  
by default, this other alternate Soviet 
reality, perfumed as it was irresistibly 
throughout with the friend’s  
friend’s mellifluous Polish accent

I hadn’t paid any attention whatsoever
to skin quality apart from accepting  
a spa courtesy card for my mother, who 
would, naturally, be interested 

my dearest dear, I answered, I am  
not going anywhere near that one
look what happened to Paris when
he fell into that trap

what happened, she asked

the Trojan War, I answered  

the Trojan War, she asked

Paris was the son of Priam and Hecuba
king and queen of Troy, explained, he, 
one of its princes, he’d been awarded 
Helenwife of Menelausking of Sparta, 
by Aphroditegoddess of lovehe’d 
chosen Aphrodite to be the most 
beautiful among the goddesses, that 
was her prize

but let me step back a little, I  
interrupted, you need more context

Eris, goddess of discord, had not been 
invited to the marriage of Peleus and 
Thetis, I recounted, he a Greek hero, 
she a sea nymph, parents both later to 
Achilleshero at Troy, slain, incidentally, 
by that very Paris, you can read all about 
it in the Iliad“, I highly recommended

during the festivities, Eris tosses a 
golden apple among the assembled 
divinities, which reads

            “to the fairest” 
 
you can hear the stirrings of the much 
later Sleeping Beautyincidentally, in 
this earliest of tellings, reconfigured 
from the original myth

AthenaAphrodite and Hera, all assume
they are meant to receive the apple, and 
ask Zeus, father and husband, to decide

you’ll have to get someone else to touch 
that one, he replies, much as I did

and delegates the task, with the help 
of Hermes, the messenger god, to the
the guileless Paris, son of Priam and 
Hecuba, Trojan king and queen, as I 
said, he, Parisprince

Paris was tending sheep on Mount Ida
when, fatefully, by a spring, the nubile 
goddesses appeared vaunting their 
unadorned splendours, stark, flagrant, 
manifest, to the musical accompaniment 
of the Graces, Faith, Hope and Charity, 
also the Horae, the Hoursgoddesses 
of the seasons, maidens all in complicit  
attendance

Paris, mere mortal, would never have 
stood a chance 

but to sweeten, nevertheless, the 
deal, were it not yet sufficiently sweet, 
Hera promises Paris Europe and Asia 
should he choose her, Athena
conquest in war, Aphroditegoddess 
of love, was set to give him the most
beautiful woman in the world

Paris opts for Aphrodite, and is 
awarded Helenthe face that
launched the thousand proverbial 
ships, the wife, not incidentally,  
and completely inconveniently, of 
the King of Sparta, Menelauswho 
attacks thereupon Troy with his 
brother, Agamemnon, and their 
allied legions, to reclaim 
Menelaus’, whether abducted, or 
indeed unfaithful, wife, no one 
has ever conclusively determined
Paris having been Paris

no one won 

no one survived but Odysseus
but that’s another story

I walked home shortly afterwards, 
crossed my own Aegean, ten or
eleven blocks back, red lights, 
nighttime traffic, watched the voice 
competition I’d taped in any case at 
homewhooped it up along with my
favourite contestants, drank to my
narrow miss, had gotten away, I
considered, with the equivalent of 
Europe and Asia, if only in my 
mind

beauty might be in the eye of the 
beholder, I surmised, but it can 
have its thorny indeed 
consequences

Richard

what is poetry

the-poetess

     “The Poetess (1940)

           Joan Miró

                 _____

when Aristotle proceeds to declare the 
parameters of “Poetry” for the ages“, his
definitions of the various poetic 
manner[s] or mode[s] of imitation” 
have already been established, his 
categorizations are not unlike Darwin’s 
categorizations of the species during
a much later age, Aristotle was a natural 
scientist much more than he was our 
notion of an abstract philosopher, he 
traded in facts rather than in the 
esoteric musings that Platofor 
instance, pursued, Virtue, Justice, 
the Good, his conclusions were more 
verifiable

Kant, incidentally, is also famous for 
following a similar form of investigation
as he attempted, nearly, for most, 
inscrutably, to categorize the elements 
of our faculty of understanding

a side story

Kant had stated that at birth we already 
have within our perceptual framework 
implicit understanding of space and 
time, these are not learned through 
experience but are already 
incorporated within us, he said

many years ago, coming out of a 
week-long coma, not knowing where
I was but alone, at that point even
just my consciousness, cause my 
body, were it there, would’ve been 
under the immaculate white sheets 
I could see that would’ve been 
shielding my legs

I looked around, could gather motes 
upon rays of light that were entering 
from what appeared to be a window 
on the right, behind sheer white 
curtains stirred by a soft breeze,  
whirling the shimmering particles 
alive in the light before me like 
miniature spinning galaxies moving 
at the pace of their own infinity

there was no sound

white walls around me stood utterly
still in the purview of my perception,
a door, also white, stood opposite 
me on the opposite wall

where am I, I wondered, could this 
be heaven, an afterlife, I might’ve 
died, I thought, marvelling, no fear, 
regret, nothing other than curiosity, 
absorption, fascination

I tried to answer my question, where 
am I, two dimensions, I figured
after having watched Terence Stamp 
exiled by Marlon Brando to a flat 
intergalactic window pane in 
Superman“, I hadn’t excluded this 
eventualityhowever ingloriously 
transcendental, as a possible 
outcome, I might be in a world with 
only two dimensions, height and 
width, no depth yet without more 
investigation, experience 

ergo, Kant, I concluded, was wrong, 
our knowledge of space is not inborn 
but a product of time and thought like 
everything else 

later, the white door on the far wall
opened, and a nurse walked in, also, 
incidentally, in incandescent white,  
and understood I was alive

Aristotle suggested that our original 
double instincts towards poetry were 
our propensity to imitate, children 
imitating their parents’ even 
idiosyncratic mannerisms, for
instance

and rhythm, repetition, preludes to 
order, coherence

those two

poetry, I read, is expression
reflecting the heartbeat, essentially,
in all its myriad representations

Richard  

“To One Who Loved Not Poetry” – Sappho

in-the-days-of-sappho-1904-jpgpinterestsmall

  “In The Days Of Sappho (1904) 

        John William Godward

                    _________

if I digressed towards “Tragedy” in my
most recent chat about poetry, I perhaps
blurred the fact that there were several 
kinds of poetry Aristotle was speaking   
about, but that all had the essential 
elements of both rhythm and 
representation, the idea that a poem 
was a reproduction of something 
that was not itself, a retelling

some of these rhythmic utterances 
were tragedies“, others were mere,  
indeed, verses without much of an 
agenda other than being the replication 
of something with rhythm the poet
wanted to promote

o, what a beautiful morning, two dactyls
and a trochee, for instance, the poetic 
meters that describe – ta da da, ta da da, 
dah dah – the natural music of that 
exclamation

and that can be a poem

here’s one of Sappho‘s, who lived 
sometime between 630 and 612 BCE
to around 570 of the same, of course,
era, famous for being from the island  
of Lesbos, yes, Lesbos 

it is To One Who Loved Not Poetry

    Thou liest dead, and there will be no memory left behind
     Of thee or thine in all the earth, for never didst thou bind
     The roses of Pierian streams upon thy brow; thy doom
     Is now to flit with unknown ghosts in cold and nameless gloom.”

so there, she says, I think, and all in iambic 
octameter, eight times ta dah

I preferred not to use one of her more
flirtatious, therefore controversial,
utterances, for fear of skewing to  
another, however compelling,
discussion

maybe next time

Richard

psst: the Pierian Spring was a spring in 
          Macedonia sacred to the Muses,
          the source of inspiration for 
          science, then, as well as the arts

Aristotle on poetry

aristotle-jpglarge

      Aristotle” (1653)

        Luca Giordano

          ___________

so what’s a poem

in an attempt to get a clearer picture 
of what a poem should be, rather 
than trust only my own, however 
informed perhaps, opinion – though 
it must be added that we all bring 
something to that word’s definition, 
mine no less worthy than yours, 
yours no less worthy than mine – 
thought I’d go back to authoritative 
sources to see what they might 
have said

and it doesn’t get any earlier and 
authoritative than Aristotlewriting 
in 350 B.C.E., at the height of 
Ancient Greek preeminence, 
dissecting the term in his 
penetrating and perspicacious, 
ahem, Poetics” 

I propose to treat of Poetry in itself and of its various kinds,
noting the essential quality of each, to inquire into the
structure of the plot as requisite to a good poem; into the
number and nature of the parts of which a poem is
composed; and similarly into whatever else falls within
the same inquiry.“, he says in Part 1 of his 
magisterial treatise

and proceeds to declare the parameters 
of “Poetry” for the ages  

Poetry in general seems to have sprung from two causes“, 
he proceeds, imitation and rhythm 

by imitation I think it best to think of 
representation, which is another way, 
anyway, of saying imitation, but 
much more evocative in this instance,
more attuned to our sense of his word 

a poem is a representation then, a 
reproduction of something other than 
itself 

while its rhythm is what George
Gershwin‘s got, and by extension, as  
you can see from this videoGene Kelly

and yes, that means that “Epic poetry and Tragedy, Comedy also
and Dithyrambic poetry, and the music of the flute and of the lyre in
most of their forms, are all in their general conception modes of
imitation.” 

so, according to Aristotle, is dance 

all, therefore, poems

an interesting elaboration about “Tragedy” 
states that it should have the three unities 
that I grew up with during my French 
Canadian upbringing, the unity of time, of
space, and of action the famous French 
Classical dramatists, Racine and Corneille,
applied under the aegis of Louis XlV

not to mention Tragedy’s use of iambic 
pentameter, Shakespeare’s ubiquitous 
beat, a beat that persevered into the very 
Nineteenth Century, in France with 
Rostand‘s Cyrano de Bergerac“, for 
instance, and into the Twentieth Century 
with Eliot‘s Murder in the Cathedral“, 
about the assassination of Archbishop
Thomas Becket at Canterbury in 1170 
under Henry the Second‘s own aegis,
all written as poetry 

the most famous play to follow the 
three unities in the modern era is 
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?“,
the play which I think defines the 
Twentieth Century, which takes 
place overnight somewhere in 
New England college town, mid-
century, at George and Martha’s 

though followed closely by O’Neill‘s 
Long Day’s Journey int Night“, 
which transpires from morning, one 
day in August, 1912, till midnight, at 
the home ofunity of space, note, 
the dysfunctional Tyrones

so it appears not much has changed
about poetry, Aristotle got a lot of 
mileage out of his early definition, 
nearly 2500 years 

makes you wonder  why so much 
attention was paid instead to 
Platohis contemporary, the 
mystic, who would’ve banned
poetry, he thought it was 
subversive
 
Richard

psst: for a modern day application
          of the three unities, watch 
          In Treatment“, a television
          series, which takes place 
          in a psychotherapist’s office,
          each episode a session,