Happy Birthday to Graham Greene!

It is impossible to go through life without trust: that is to be imprisoned in the worst cell of all, oneself.

My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ball-point pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane.

~Graham Greene (1904-1991)

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Happy Birthday to Wendell Berry!

There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say “It is yet more difficult than you thought.” This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.

~Wendell Berry (1934 – )

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Happy Birthday to G. W. Leibniz!

TO LOVE is to find pleasure in the happiness of others. Thus the habit of loving someone is nothing other than BENEVOLENCE by which we want the good of others, not for the profit that we gain from it, but because it is agreeable to us in itself.

I claim that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated without this principle: nothing exists without a reason. This principle holds not only in mechanics, where it concerns whether from a given magnitude, figure and motion, another magnitude, figure and motions, follows, but also in matters that of necessity are not mechanical, which I show as follows.

~Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716)

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Happy Birthday to G. K. Chesterton!

Chesterton is far too quotable to do justice, so here are three quotes from him related to the topic of “Reason”

Reason and the Heart:

Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of ‘touching’ a man’s heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it.

Reason and Imagination:

Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination.

Reason and Faith:

It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all. If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, “Why should ANYTHING go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic? They are both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape?” The young sceptic says, “I have a right to think for myself.” But the old sceptic, the complete sceptic, says, “I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all.”

~Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936)

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Happy Birthday to Walker Percy!

You live in a deranged age, more deranged that usual, because in spite of great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.

The influence of Kierkegaard on Percy is apparent:

The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.

~Walker Percy (1916-1990)

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Happy Birthday to Thomas Reid!

Thomas Reid is one of the greatest philosophers you’ve probably never heard of. A contemporary and harsh critique of David Hume, Reid represents the Scottish Common Sense School of Philosophy. Reid was highly critical of the likes of Descartes (and Hume), arguing that the entire Cartesian project of Methodological Doubt was irrational. Basically, Reid argued that there are certain first principles that we do not and cannot reason to, but rather are the conditions from which we reason. Reid was heavily influential for the modern “Reformed Epistemology” movement of Wolterstoff, Plantinga, et. al. Here’s a nice quote from Reid which typifies his sometimes satirical style:

Descartes, Malebranche, and Locke have all employed their genius and skill, to prove the existence of a material world; and with very bad success. Poor untaught mortals believe undoubtedly, that there is a sun, moon, and stars; an earth, which we inhabit; country, friends, and relations, which we enjoy; land, houses, and moveables, which we possess. But philosophers, pitying the credulity of the vulgar, resolve to have no faith but what is founded upon reason. They apply to philosophy to furnish them with reasons for the belief of those things, which all mankind have believed without being able to give any reason for it. And surely one would expect, that, in matters of such importance, the proof would not be difficult: but it is the most difficult thing in the world. For these three great men, with the best good will, have not been able, from all the treasures of philosophy, to draw one argument, that is fit to convince a man that can reason, of the existence of any one thing without him. Admired Philosophy! daughter of light! parent of wisdom and knowledge! if thou art she! surely thou hast not yet arisen upon the human mind, nor blessed us with more of thy rays, than are sufficient to shed a “darkness visible” upon the human faculties, and to disturb that repose and security which happier mortals enjoy, who never approached thine altar, nor felt thine influence! But if indeed thou hast not power to dispel those clouds and phantoms which thou hast discovered or created, withdraw this penurious and malignant ray: I despise Philosophy, and renounce its guidance: let my soul dwell with Common Sense.

~Thomas Reid (1711-1796)  An Inquiry Into the Human Mind On the Principles of Common Sense

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Happy Birthday to Søren Kierkegaard!

There is far too much of Kierkegaard worth quoting. So, here are just a few gems:

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.

The highest and most beautiful things in life are not to be heard about, nor read about, nor seen but, if one will, are to be lived.

Boredom is the root of all evil – the despairing refusal to be oneself.

One sticks one’s finger into the soil to tell by the smell in what land one is: I stick my finger into existence—it smells of nothing. Where am I? Who am I? How came I here? What is this thing called the world? … How did I come into the world? Why was I not consulted, why was I not informed of the rules and regulations but was thrust into the ranks as if I had been bought by a peddling shanghaier of human beings? … How did I obtain an interest in this big enterprise they call reality? Why should I have an interest in it? Isn’t it a matter of choice? And if I am compelled to take part in it, where is the director? I have something to say about this. Is there no manager? To whom shall I make my complaint?

You have surely noticed among schoolboys, that the one that is regarded by all as the boldest is the one who has no fear of his father, who dares to say to the others, “Do you think I am afraid of him?” On the other hand, if they sense that one of their number is actually and literally afraid of his father, they will readily ridicule him a little. Alas, in men’s fear-ridden rushing together into a crowd (for why indeed does a man rush into a crowd except because he is afraid!) there, too, it is a mark of boldness not to be afraid, not even of God. And if someone notes that there is an individual outside the crowd who is really and truly afraid — not of the crowd, but of God, he is sure to be the target of some ridicule. The ridicule is usually glossed over somewhat and it is said: a man should love God. Yes, to be sure, God knows that man’s highest consolation is that God is love and that man is permitted to love Him. But let us not become too forward, and foolishly, yes, blasphemously, dismiss the tradition of our fathers, established by God Himself: that really and truly a man should fear God. This fear is known to the man who is himself conscious of being an individual, and thereby is conscious of his eternal responsibility before God.

~Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

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