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Post Kafka, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche: Illogical?
Created by John Eipper on 01/26/19 3:59 AM

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Kafka, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche: Illogical? (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 01/26/19 3:59 am)

Wow, Massoud Malek (January 23rd) poses some tough questions. I confess to being intimidated by JE's comment, "The gauntlet has been thrown for Tor Guimaraes. How are Kafka, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche illogical?"

Well, I'd better try to explain myself to Massoud and other WAISers.

Massoud wrote: "In his post, Tor told us that the philosophical calls to action of Kafka, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche were logically incomplete or inconclusive. Without pointing out their shortcomings, he immediately told us that his God is the Universe concept provides a healthy and productive approach for followers."

My working definition of logic is "compared to what I have perceived and experienced in reality, does the call to action from Mr. or Ms. X produce desirable results I would like to recommend and/or follow myself?" Each of these great thinkers preached what they did because of their background and the social/political context in which they lived. Each wrote several books about various topics. A discussion of their lives and their philosophies would in turn require several books, so what I mention here will be at best a superficial note which might require further elaboration.

To me Kafka in summary makes little sense to follow because he is so negative about life.  He blames his miserable life on his father who was extremely strong and domineering to the verge of psychological brutality. This fellow was such a loser that he left instructions that even his work should not be published after his death. In contrast, my God is the Universe philosophy is based on "all living things are lucky to exist, learn about the Universe and work as much as you can; and be grateful for the results. You can always work harder to change your life for the better. Don't blame anyone else."

Schopenhauer is a great philosopher to read right after you got in a fight with your wife. He preaches that no one should fall in love and get married because the universe has programmed people to follow instincts which are designed to balance the lovers' imbalances. It is possible he is right, but falling in love is an irresistible force. His philosophy preached women as inferior (good luck with that) and failed to explain the many possible side effects for using other motivations besides love for getting married. My philosophy is, if you fall in love, think carefully about the social economic implications of marriage, and have some kids. They are the greatest gifts God the Universe can give you.

By far Nietzsche is the most interesting of these three philosophers, and he has had a profound impact on the world. Born to a religious family, turned against Christianity to the desperation of his mother and sister who took care of him after his father/pastor died of a horrible brain disease. A gifted student of languages, at 24 he received a professorship at Basel University. His entire life he was a sick individual and his last marriage proposal traumatized him profoundly. His philosophy was totally anti-democratic, with a fervent belief in aristocracy and the superiority of the ruling elite. Bertrand Russell correctly called him a sycophant for the aristocracy of the time. His concept of the superman (a man who could reinvent himself to survive, grow, and rule in a chaotic world) is an interesting one. His power to the elite philosophy and rabid anti-socialism, as well as his sister's Nazi tendencies, led to the strong admiration from the Nazi Party. I disagree with his thinking, to me democracy, advised by scientific knowledge broadly defined, is the only way for mankind in the long run.

Last, Massoud stabbed me with: "Given the fact that Tor believes in miracles and rejects the fanaticism of atheists, is it safe to say that he is not a messenger of Demiurge, but another higher entity?" Yes, I am a messenger preaching that God as the Universe makes a lot of sense (it is logical) to promote scientific knowledge which historically has greatly benefited humanity, instead of manmade religions and other superstitions.

JE comments:  Tor Guimaraes raises a question in my mind.  These philosophers are depressing, but does that make them illogical?  Religions on the other hand may defy logic, but they offer hope.  Can we define Tor's God the Universe concept as an attempt to offer both logic and hope?

But please, Tor, don't call Kafka a loser!  Few thinkers were more skilled at describing the modern condition.

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  • Bismarck's Ambivalence to German Colonialism (Patrick Mears, Germany 01/26/19 6:41 AM)
    When I read John E's comment on Bismarck and his attitude towards German colonialism, I recalled reading in A.J.P. Taylor's biography of the Iron Chancellor and perhaps in other sources that Bismarck's attitude toward colonization was ambivalent. True, his government hosted the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 and he acted as the meeting's chairperson, but he also quoted as saying as saying that he was not a "colonies man" (with apologies to our President). Here is a relevant quote from the Wikipedia entry on German colonies:

    In essence, Bismarck's colonial motives were obscure as he had said repeatedly "I am no man for colonies" and "remained as contemptuous of all colonial dreams as ever."  However, in 1884 he consented to the acquisition of colonies by the German Empire, in order to protect trade, to safeguard raw materials and export markets and to take opportunities for capital investment, among other reasons.  In the very next year Bismarck shed personal involvement when "he abandoned his colonial drive as suddenly and casually as he had started it," as if he had committed an error in judgment that could confuse the substance of his more significant policies.  "Indeed, in 1889, [Bismarck] tried to give German South-West Africa away to the British. It was, he said, a burden and an expense, and he would like to saddle someone else with it."

    JE comments:  In times like these I especially miss the input of our long-silent colleague Eugen Solf, whose grandfather Wilhelm (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Solf ) was Germany's governor of Samoa and later Foreign Minister.  Eugen, are you out there...?

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  • Was Nietzsche Depressing? (Nigel Jones, UK 01/26/19 3:57 PM)
    John Eipper is wrong when he brackets Nietzsche with Schopenhauer and Kafka as "depressing."

    Schopenhauer certainly was the uber-pessimist and so was Kafka (who was of course a novelist rather than a philosopher). Nietzsche, however, was a life-affirmer, however sad the conditions of his own life may have been.

    Schopenhauer was close to a Buddhist philosophy of renunciation. Since life is suffering, and our pursuit of happiness often brings disappointment, our best bet is pacific quietism and acceptance of our insignificance in the universe.

    Nietzsche is almost the polar opposite. His work is a call for Man--or rather some supermen--to replace a dead God as masters of the universe and make our own lives according to our own rules. That is probably why Nietzsche appeals strongly to young people. (Myself included when I was a kid.)

    His reputation as a proto-Nazi is unjust, and as Tor Guimaraes rightly says, was down to his sister Elisabeth who posthumously edited her dead brother's works to fit them in with her racist views. In fact Nietzsche was an enemy of German nationalism and anti-Semitism: One reason for his famous quarrel with his friend Wagner.

    The real Nazi philosopher was of course Martin Heidegger, but that's another story...

    JE comments:  Absolutely, but many acts committed in Nietzsche's name were depressing.  Killing off God is also a downer for many.

    Nigel, tell us about your youthful encounters with Nietzsche.  In the American heartland, we didn't do much philosophy (if you can call it that) beyond Catcher in the Rye.

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    • A Philosophers' Riddle; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 01/27/19 7:39 AM)

      Gary Moore writes:

      WAISworld's philosopher discussion brings up a side-riddle, unphilosophical as it might sound:

      Who are the disparate famous people in history who died sitting straight up?
      In other words, the landlady sees the guy sitting as usual at the breakfast table,
      but not moving, and so finally she gives him a poke. His act would seem to involve
      a singular act of will. Does the suddenly afflicted brain, recognizing the heart attack,
      say to itself: "Okay, this is it. But I'm not going to fall. I'm not going to gasp. Why should I?
      Dignity to the last."

      An iconic fictional example was in the Billy Crystal movie City Slickers,
      where the hero figure, an aging but still-gigantic Jack Palance, takes precisely the pivotal
      moment to take leave of his clumsy and naive acolytes, providing the crisis for them
      to grow up. The hero, named Curly in the script, is found sitting as usual at the
      breakfast campfire of a cattle drive. But he's not moving. Unconquerable to the end.

      A similar such figure in real life has been named in the discussion by Nigel Jones and Tor Guimaraes.
      I used to have a list of others. Any takers on this riddle?

      JE comments:  Sorry Gary, I cheated, but will keep mum.  Anyone in WAISworld know the answer sans Googling?

      A related riddle:  why the cowboy stigma of dying with your boots on?

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      • Sit Down and Die: One More for the List (Enrique Torner, USA 01/28/19 3:42 AM)
        Ha! Gary Moore's riddle (January 27th) is an easy one, and I bet nobody knows, but I'll be giving away the end to an upcoming story of mine.

        Not only did he die sitting up (well, just about), but he passed away with his glasses on, holding onto some papers that had a list of people he was planning to fire. That's why somebody probably murdered him. He died with his pants on, though it's disputed whether he actually died that way, or somebody put them on him after he died. He was probably poisoned. He was, however, sitting (technically, reclining high up, with pillows behind him), with his eyes open, and smiling. Who was he? Pope John Paul I!

        More details coming soon, hopefully within a month, God willing! (Sorry, Tor, not the Universe willing!)

        And I apologize for my long absence from WAIS: many things have prevented me from participating.

        JE comments:  Happy New Year, Enrique!  And welcome back.  I hope the things keeping you away from WAIS have all been joyful and productive.

        This is a bizarre topic, but I must add another twist.  In ancient Peru, you were buried in a sitting position.  This better prepared you to spring into the afterlife.

        Any guessers for Gary Moore's original riddle?  And finally, do popes wear pants?

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        • More on Sitting and Dying; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 01/29/19 6:05 AM)

          Gary Moore writes:

          Congratulations to Enrique Torner (January 28) for his addition to the pantheon
          of died-sitting-straight-up.

          I confess, however, that Pope John Paul I was not the
          example I was cryptically citing (that example was perhaps also the one JE found
          independently, without giving away the name). Wow, I never knew the phenomenon
          could extend, as Enrique described, to eyes open and smiling.

          So now we know of two. How many others?

          JE comments: I Googled "people who died while sitting" and came up with this scatological result--those who expired on the toilet.  We all know about Elvis, but add Judy Garland, Evelyn Waugh, Lenny Bruce, and at least two monarchs.  I squeamishly offer the following:


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          • When Google Comes Up Empty: The Dying-While-Sitting Riddle (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 01/31/19 4:35 AM)

            Gary Moore writes:

            John E finds that Google, when asked the Who-Died-Sitting-Straight-Up riddle,
            can offer only an unseemly asterisk, in what might be called the Elvis direction,
            arguably the opposite of what I was talking about, since the sitting-straight-up
            phenomenon implies an act of will to preserve dignity.

            As another corollary,
            Houdini was said to use an act of will to choose his death date, prolonging the
            burst appendix until Halloween. An example from fiction goes the other way:
            the wise old Cheyenne chief in Little Big Man says, "It is a good day to die,"
            then lays himself down in a magnificent mountain setting, only to open his eyes
            quizzically a few minutes later, having found he couldn't command himself to
            pass away.

            Still, JE's journey with Google-Charon on the cyber-Styx reveals something else:
            The Sitting-Straight-Up riddle may be one of those rare historical gems that can't
            be teased out by Googling. There are individual historians who know the cases that
            could be added to the list, but where or how would such knowledge be indexed?
            Is this a tiny preserve of folkloric mystery, surrounded by the roar of the Information

            (...aber, Herr Schopenhauer, wollen Sie nicht frühstücken?)

            JE comments:  So ol' Arthur will skip breakfast today.  But Gary, you've let the cat out of the bag.  My inquisitive Assistant Editor (a cat) asks, what kind of sick mind would put a cat in a bag?

            Dying in a seated position is an interesting topic, but how about dying in Detroit?  Harry Houdini (October 31st, 1926) belongs to that elite club.

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  • Religion and Atheism: Major Questions (Tor Guimaraes, USA 01/27/19 2:26 PM)
    JE commented on my latest: "[Kafka, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche] are depressing, but does that make them illogical? Religions on the other hand may defy logic, but they offer hope. Can we define Tor's God the Universe concept as an attempt to offer both logic and hope?"

    Two important characteristics of these philosophers: First, as I said earlier, they were great thinkers and described many truths about the world. Second, they all were outstanding writers. What makes their conclusions illogical is their narrow-minded views which lead to conclusions or actions which are generally not healthy or constructive for mankind.

    Yes, I would love to produce a philosophy which offers "both logic and hope."

    Last, JE's comment motivated this answer to Atheism:

    Why should I believe there is no God when all I see are idealists frustrated at the many past human attempts to create a god which only produces imaginary individual solace, but major conflict and destruction among nations?

    Why should I believe there is no God, only a spiritually dead universe, which would have produced nothing, when the evidence is so contrary?

    Why should I believe there is no God when the Universe seems so marvelous and mysterious, with so much order even amidst chaos, and so many precise rules to be discovered by science?

    Do not be beguiled by the possibility of many universes, the possibility of other laws of physics. All that would represent a Universe even more marvelous and mysterious.

    I show you the Universe as God Itself, show me that there is no God or that the Universe can be without It.

    JE comments:  A question for this Seventh Day:  
    "Why should I believe there is no God when all I see are idealists
    frustrated at the many past human attempts to create a god which only
    produces imaginary individual solace, but major conflict and destruction
    among nations?"

    Remember, history, religion and economics are the Three Pillars of WAIS, all filtered through an international lens.  Or at least they're supposed to be.  Anyone care to respond to Tor?

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    • Atheists under Bombardment (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/29/19 8:32 AM)
      I always appreciate the engaging, rational and logical posts from our friend Tor Guimaraes, even if I will stick to Catholicism in spite of the Bishop of Rome Bergoglio.

      What I want to talk about is genuine atheism, which strikes me as the most difficult creed in the world. A comment from my friend Luciano Dondero would be most welcome here.

      During the bombing of WWII by the so-called Liberators, who certainly did not liberate me, prior to the arrival of the planes the alarm sirens would give a few minutes to run for shelter in the nearby galleries. Once, however, the planes managed to arrive without prior notice and started their terrorist bombing on civilian targets. Several residents of the apartment house where I lived remained blocked in the entrance hall, as it was already a hell of fire and explosions outside. I was among those trapped, and there was also a die-hard communist young lady. She was an atheist and a declared enemy of the Church and the clergy, who according to her should have been liquidated. But when the explosions came closer, this lady threw herself on her knees and started loudly invoking God, the Virgin Mary and so on.  I never in all my life saw such overflowing faith.

      According to Battaglia's Law, let me recall the young socialist Mussolini, who in a crowded rally took a watch in his hands and shouted: "If God exists, I give Him three minutes to strike me down." The three minutes passed Mussolini, thank God, remained alive and the people acclaimed him.

      Mussolini nevertheless later married in Church, created the Vatican as it is now, favoured the Catholic Church in many ways, and sought confession in his last few days when he had a clear idea he was finished, stating, "I was born Catholic and I want to die Catholic."

      JE comments:  The adage about no atheists in foxholes certainly applies to civilians during a bombing raid.  Few experiences could be more terrifying.  The title of this post (Atheists under Bombardment) was my idea.  At first glance you read it figuratively, but Eugenio Battaglia's example couldn't be more literal.

      Eugenio, this is the first time I've heard you comment on the Francis papacy.  What are your objections?

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      • There ARE Atheists in Foxholes (Luciano Dondero, Italy 01/30/19 3:19 AM)
        Good morning and Happy New Year from not-so-sunny Fuerteventura!

        In response to Eugenio Battaglia (January 29th), I actually don't think atheism is a particularly hard stance (not "creed," though) to adopt. It is in fact the default with which any child is born. Religion in one aspect is like language: you follow the one your parents follow; once you grow up you might change religion, or abandon any supernatural belief.

        I was lucky enough that in my family I was under no pressure.  They were atheists, but when I was 12 and wanted to become a Catholic, they accommodated me.

        Honestly my motivation was strictly opportunistic: I wanted to get all the presents I would get from various relatives at Confirmation...

        Anyhow, I don't get the point about "No atheists in foxholes."

        Clearly anybody who is serious about their beliefs should do like the American Indian tribe who would defy bullets because their god would protect them.

        If you hide underground you simply show that you believe in practical materialism, whenever it's a matter of actual life and death. Believing in god is OK on Sundays (or Saturdays or Fridays), but not for real. Or so it does appear to me.

        Personally I have been under fire only once, in Afghanistan, when Mujahedins armed with Stingers were shooting at the helicopter I was in. Not probably close enough for a real test, but the idea of praying did not enter my mind

        Regarding the hard-line CP lady my friend Eugenio mentions, I would imagine she must have had a religious upbringing, and under pressure reverted to her roots.

        As I had none in any serious way, I doubt very much I would resort to that. But frankly I have not been tested.

        JE comments:  Happy (frigid) New Year to you, Luciano!  Fuerteventura may be chilly today, but I'll trade places.  I can hear the Polar Vortex outside WAIS HQ, doing its gusty, devilish best to deliver frostbite.  At present we have a wind chill of -33 F, the coldest I've ever had to face.  Ever.  Most schools and universities are closed today (including the state's flagship institution, the U of Michigan).  Adrian College (plucky, as I said before) is open for business.  I'll no doubt "get religion" as I walk to my car.

        Luciano, you must tell us about your experience in Afghanistan.  Were you "embedded" with the Soviets as a journalist?

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