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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Tyranny of Virus

A measly flu virus has achieved in less than a month what the great tyrants of history—Alexander the great, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Stalin—dreamed to achieve but could not in their lifetime: World domination. Modern civilization is weak, corrupt, and pathetic; it has allowed a flu virus to gain a total stranglehold on the life of billions of people. Hail the tyrant coronavirus  In another couple of weeks, I am optimistic, this tyrant coronavirus will be overthrown and society will try to find a new normal, but its short reign will leave an indelible mark our politics, economy, and culture.

Monday, March 30, 2020

A Fantasy on the Problem of Certainty

It is not possible for a man to be certain that he is not at this moment the Emperor of a civilization, located on a planet in the Andromeda galaxy, dreaming of being billions of lightyears away from his kingdom, on a planet called Earth, in the Milky Way galaxy, where there exists a primitive civilization and he is locked inside a house because the local government has issued a lockdown order to save its population from a virus called “covid-19” which, unknown to the earthlings, originated in a cloud of stardust located in the other end of the Milky Way and was transported to Earth by a meteor which, fifteen-months ago, fell on the Wuhan region of a nation called China and from there spread across the entire planet.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Wars, Epidemics, and Philosophy

The philosophy of the past consists of the unhappy reactions to the post-war and post-epidemic distress that the philosophers have encountered. The Socratic, Platonic, and Aristotelian philosophy can be seen as an outcome of the anti-establishment thinking that was catalyzed by the distress that Ancient Athens was put through after its defeat in the Peloponnesian War. The philosophy of the late middle ages and the early modern period carries the mark of the multiple plague epidemics, which wiped out more than half the population in many parts of Europe. I believe that the present pandemic might spawn a philosophical thought that is significantly different from the philosophical trends of the last fifty years.

Society & Risks

People have become convinced that their community can be free of all risks, that they don’t have to worry about disease, unemployment, inflation, poverty, crime, and any other problem, and that the government will always be there to shield them from every risk. But it's impossible to have a community in which there are no risks; if you shutdown your community to avoid risks, then you will remain shutdown for a long time and then there will be no community left.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

On The Journey From Liberalism To Conservatism

The journey from liberalism to conservatism is the trend in all democratic countries. The young man is a liberal; he thinks he can achieve anything; he is contemptuous of the social norms; his mind is a cauldron of idealism and he is full of enthusiasm for changing and reforming everything—but when he gets older and mature, the realization dawns on him that there are limits to what can be done, that change and reform do not always lead to desirable outcomes, and then be becomes a conservative who takes a hard-headed view of the world, who realizes the importance of conserving the basic structure of his society. “Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains”—this saying (often attributed to Winston Churchill), I think, captures the difference between the liberal and the conservative.

On Quarantine

The community that uses quarantining as a method of protection from disease is in the long run infinitely more weakened than it is by the prevalence of disease. The more effective the quarantine, the less immune people become to new diseases and the less incentive they have to develop better methods of treatment—and this makes them more vulnerable to any future outbreak.

Friday, March 27, 2020

On Democracy

In a democracy the mob and the monarch come together and create a system of governance in which there is brutalization of the people, by the people, for the people.

The Old Flu Versus The New

The modern mind is enamored of the new and contemptuous of the old. Modern men are contemptuous of old traditions, of old books, of  old relatives, of old wisdom, and lastly, of old seasonal flu. On the subject of flu—between three to five million people get infected and between 290,000 to 650,000 people die every year from seasonal flu, but the media and the politicians have never paid any attention to such high casualty figures. They can disregard the seasonal flu because it’s an old flu; our society prefers to be tormented by the new flu, the ultimate arriviste: Coronavirus.

The Platonic View Of Isolation

In the Republic (496d), Plato says that a man has to retire “under the shelter of a wall in the storm of dust and sleet”—or live in total isolation from others—for realizing the unknown potential that may exist inside him. I wonder how many people will realize their unknown potential, now that they are being forced to live in some kind of isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic?

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Plague Of Athens

The plague that struck Ancient Athens in 430 BC, the second year of the Peloponnesian War, wiped out a third of its population of 300000. The historian Thucydides, who was in Athens, contracted the plague and survived. In his History of the Peloponnesian War, he claims that the plague entered the Greek world by the way of Egypt and Libya, before moving into the wider Mediterranean. Wherever the plague went it killed close to thirty percent of the population. He writes, “...the catastrophe was so overwhelming that men, not knowing what would happen next to them, became indifferent to every rule of religion or law.” The physicians, he says, were the first to die since they were in contact with the sick.

The Athenian general Pericles and many infantry and sea commanders were among those who were slain by the plague. Thucydides laments that after Pericles, Athens was led by weak and incompetent rulers. Pericles might have made Athens vulnerable to the plague because, to defeat the Spartans, he developed the strategy of making all Athenians live inside the city walls—he could not have foreseen that the crowded city would become a breeding ground for the plague. Had Athens not been struck by the plague, it might have emerged victorious in the Peloponnesian War, which they continued to fight for more than two decades before accepting defeat at the hands of the Spartans.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

On The Malaria Pandemic

No one cares that malaria is causing more than 400000 deaths worldwide, almost every year, since 1972, when a ban was placed on the use of DDT. The publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, in 1962, played a pivotal role in getting DDT internationally banned—she alleged, without presenting any scientific evidence, that DDT has carcinogenic effects and can lead to a cancer epidemic which might wipe out the entire human race within a single generation. The ban on DDT has made the people in poor countries an easy prey to malaria. Millions have died because Rachel Carson lied. Her lies were widely popularized by her backers in mainstream media, politics, and environmentalist movements—they turned her into a cult figure. But DDT is safe; it does not have any carcinogenic effects (WHO confirmed this in 2006).

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

On Saving Humpty Dumpty

Once Humpty Dumpty falls and breaks, the nursery rhyme rightly notes, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men cannot put him together again. The confused fight against the pandemic has pushed Humpty Dumpty (the world economy) dangerously close to the wall’s edge. The power-drunk politicians and intellectuals should exercise caution—if they continue to push with their draconian measures, they will make him fall. When Humpty Dumpty falls and breaks, the political establishment will not survive; they too will fall and break, resulting in great instability, lawlessness, and violence.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Establishment Versus The Pandemic

I do not fear the pandemic. I am certain that most people possess enough self-discipline and inner-strength to overcome any pandemic. But I fear the global political (and intellectual) establishment, which is quite clueless, incompetent, and corrupt, and is hell-bent on using its massive power to “rescue” humanity from the pandemic. By imposing draconian restrictions on individuals and businesses, they are creating a psychological and economic nightmare for millions of people. Their response to the pandemic will eventually prove as costly, fruitless, and messy as the global war on terrorism that they have been waging for almost two decades.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Totalitarianism & Liberty

There has not been a single totalitarian movement in the last two hundred and fifty years that has not proclaimed that its aim is to bring liberty and dignity to the people. Liberty and dignity, it seems, are as much an opiate of the masses as religion. But Marx insists that religion is the only opiate.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Nietzsche’s Attack On Socrates

Nietzsche despised Socrates. He rejected the Socratic way of identifying reason with virtues, and virtue with eudaemonia (human flourishing). In his work on ancient Greek thinkers, Nietzsche asserts that the truly great spirits (destiny’s children) are motivated by instinct and that the frigid, self-aware reason, which Socrates represents, was not only antagonistic to instinct but also a sign of decadence. According to Nietzsche, the teachings of Socrates (and his disciple Plato) precipitated the decay of Ancient Greek culture and paved way for a Roman takeover. He excoriates Socrates for being ugly, noting that ugliness is symptomatic of a perversion—the man with a monstrous face, Nietzsche maintains, must have a monstrous soul. He even conjectures that Socrates might not even be of Greek extraction.

Revenge of the Sith

“So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause.” ~ Padme Amidala in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

Friday, March 20, 2020

Woolf’s Last Lines In "To The Lighthouse"

The last lines in Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse: “It was done; it was finished. Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision.” The exhaustion of the protagonist (Lily Briscoe), and perhaps the writer, is palpable in these two lines.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Dystopian Future Versus Dystopian Past

There are people who believe that the dystopian future has already arrived, that the enemies of their way of life have uprooted them from a golden past that would have been their life—they will make any sacrifice to take the world back, back to the golden past. But there are those who abhor the past which they believe was dystopian and which refuses to go away; they protest that they are being forced to live in a past to which they do not belong and they demand a future—any future, they think, will be better than the dystopian past which is devouring their present.

The Advanced & The Backward

Nature favors the economically and culturally disadvantaged. Communities that are mired in poverty, ignorance, and intractable conflicts have a high birth rate, while the advanced communities have a low birth rate. A community, it seems, can either produce the BMWs and iPhones or it can reproduce large number of children. There has never been a community that has achieved technological advancement and growth in its population at the same time. In case of a devastating global pandemic, it is the advanced communities that undergo lot of pain while for the backward communities there is hardly any change—they continue to exist in the same sort of backwardness in which they have always lived.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

On Frank Sinatra’s Opinion

"The best is yet to come!" —This is Frank Sinatra’s own opinion and not something written in stone. I think the best has already happened—the best is the gleaming specter of an impossible long-ago era that will never return.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

On The Metaphysics of Lucretius

Stephen Greenblatt describes the metaphysics of Lucretius in a single 108-word paragraph in which every line points towards the word “atoms,” which appears at the paragraph's end. Here’s the paragraph from Greenblatt’s book The Swerve: How the World Became Modern: “That Lucretius and many others did more than simply associate themselves with Epicurus—that they celebrated him as godlike in his wisdom and courage—depended not on his social credentials but upon what they took to be the saving power of his vision. The core of his vision may be traced back to a single incandescent idea: that everything that has ever existed and everything that will ever exist is put together out of indestructible building blocks, irreducibly small in size, unimaginably vast in number. The Greeks had a word for these invisible building blocks, things that, as they conceived them, could not be divided any further: atoms.”

On Nihilism

Nihilism is never inborn. It’s learned. It’s learned in the world’s best universities. It’s taught by the world’s best professors. It’s propagandized around the world by the world’s best media companies. But the foot soldiers and the ultimate victims of nihilism are the world’s gullible masses.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Zeno’s Paradox & Progress Of Civilizations

Zeno’s paradox against movement is easily refuted; however, it can be used to draw some conclusions regarding progress of civilizations. The case can be made that no civilization founded with the aspiration of attaining moral value X can actually reach point X, because it must first cover half the distance between where it is and where it aspires to be, and before that, half of the half, and before that, half of the half of the half, and so on till infinity. This means that perfection is unattainable for any civilization and that all civilizations exhaust themselves in trying to achieve goals that are unattainable and then they vanish.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Politics Of Crisis

When people become convinced that the crisis they face is massive, their collective intelligence vanishes and they become conditioned to act according to blind instincts and reflexes. This is the seventh heaven for those who control the government, because, with the people transformed into unintelligent creatures, they are free to use the crisis as an excuse for advancing their own political agenda. They can redesign any political process or institution, pass new laws, impose new restrictions. The crisis has turned them into the god of the political system, the savior of the people, and there is nothing that they can do wrong.

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death

I am thinking of Edgar Allan Poe’s story, "The Masque of the Red Death,” (published in 1842), in which Prince Prospero and many of his wealthy nobles try to save themselves from a dangerous plague by fortifying themselves in an abbey with high walls. They are having a wild revelry inside the abbey while the country’s population is succumbing to the plague. Unfortunately, the plague manages to enter the abbey in the form of a mysterious figure disguised as a Red Death.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Is Freedom Of The Press Necessary?

When we think of freedom, we are apt to confine ourselves to freedom of the press. But this is because the press is telling us 24/7 that their freedom, and only their freedom, is a necessary condition for everyone’s freedom. They happily campaign for all sorts of restrictions on almost every other industry and on the general public, but they themselves want to enjoy an absolute freedom of speech; they want to be free to propagandize any kind of views, right or wrong, rational or irrational. Their attitude is indefensible. I no longer see freedom of press as a necessary condition for freedom in society—the press in most advanced democracies functions as a tool for spreading false propaganda to brainwash the gullible sections of society.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems And Philosophy

One of the philosophical implications of Kurt Gödel’s two incompleteness theorems is that an all-inclusive definition of philosophical truth is not possible. The human brain has built-in limitations of its own, and there are several problems that it is incapable of solving. The obvious truths for which cogent proof is not possible are generally accepted by the philosophers as being prior to philosophy or axiomatic. But there can be a number of true statements which cannot be formally deduced from a given set of axioms and are neither provable nor refutable. It follows that philosophy is not possible without intuitions, creativity, and rationalization, and that the nature of the philosophical truth cannot be fully formalized, since new perspectives on this truth will forever await invention and discovery. Therefore, no limits can be placed on the inventiveness of the philosophers in their development of new methods of finding the truth.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

On External World

The existence of the external world cannot be proved by using philosophical arguments because the knowledge of its existence is prior to philosophy and serves as the basis for all philosophy.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Yoda's Version

My version: You lift weights when you want a workout; you lift a book when you want to learn philosophy.

Yoda’s version: Workout you want, lift weights you will; philosophy you want, lift a book you will.

On The Hegelian Notion Of Civilization

As individuals grow to maturity, societies make progress from barbarism to civilization, but the civilizations are like snowflakes in the sense that no two civilizations are alike. If the term “civilization” is interpreted as an inexorable movement towards a single, unalterable, universal, and final form of society (as Hegel has envisioned in his Phenomenology of Spirit), then instead of moving towards civilization, society will regress into barbarism.

Monday, March 9, 2020

The Last Philosophy Book You’ll Ever Need

Imagine a philosophy book with the ghastly title: The Last Philosophy Book You’ll Ever Need. The title is ghastly because it isn’t the last philosophy book that you’ll ever need. Philosophy is not a destination; it is a never-ending process of arguments and counterarguments, propositions and refutations; it is marked by chaos, conflict, and detours which result in unexpected theories. But modern philosophers have been motivated by the ambition of writing the last philosophy book that humans will ever need. The Enlightenment philosophes wanted to write it; Hegel was convinced that he had written it, so were Marx and Auguste Comte; the twentieth-century figures like Wittgenstein, the logical positivists, and the analytic philosophers wanted to write it, while Jean-Paul Sartre was convinced that he had written it.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Agree To Disagree

I encounter the phrase “agree to disagree” quite frequently during discussions on politics and philosophy. But are the people who use this phrase really agreeing to disagree. I think they get tired of arguing and offer the phrase “agree to disagree” as a polite way of ending further discussion. While they “agree to disagree,” they get out of the discussion knowing full well that they “disagree."

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Science And Philosophy

Science and philosophy move in parallel and opposite directions—when science makes progress, philosophy is mired in irrationality, and when philosophy marches towards rationality, science is mired mysticism. The claim that rational philosophy is a necessary for scientific progress is absurd. Philosophy is not a fight of science; and science is not the son of rational philosophy.

On Unconnected Philosophies

A philosophy that has not forged deep connections with the great philosophies of the past can be tricky, because it may lead the individuals, who accept it, away from the path of righteousness, and, if it becomes popular, it may become the motivating force for movements which cause large-scale damage to society. Violent and destructive civil wars and revolutions are generally inspired by the philosophies which spurn the traditional thinking of mankind.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Imagination And Reality

For a philosopher, imagination is more important than reality. For a scientist, reality is more important than imagination.

Monday, March 2, 2020

“I” Versus “Me”

When you over-glorify a word, you distort its meaning—which is what the individualists have done to the word “I”. With their relentless over-glorification, the individualists have politicized the word “I”, making it appear like a raised middle finger directed at humankind. They are convinced that when they use the word “I”, they are not only referring to themselves but also flaunting their egoism and proving their intellectual independence. But “I” is just another word; it is not logical to encumber any word with political agendas. In my opinion,“me” and “myself” are far more honorable and upright words than “I”.

On Original Philosopher

An original philosopher must start philosophizing in order to find out the denouement of his own philosophy. Only after he has completed his thesis does he know where his philosophy goes.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Inevitable And The Obvious

A politician is energized by the things that are inevitable. A philosopher is energized by the things that are obvious. But history is made by the few politicians who thwart the inevitable and give a new direction to politics—and philosophical greatness is achieved by the few philosophers who identify the flaws in the obvious and describe a new worldview.