The 225 new ideas included in the latest update (of 17th August), by Theme

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1. Philosophy / A. Wisdom / 1. Nature of Wisdom
Seeking wisdom beyond our different perspectives is decadent and anti-life [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: 'Wisdom' as the attempt to get beyond perspective valuations (i.e. beyond the 'will to power'): a principle hostile to life, and decadent.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Will to Power (notebooks) [1888], §608)
     A reaction: 'Decadent' is one of Nietzsche's worst insults. For him, 'perspective' does not mean totally private and subjective, because we amalgamate all of our perspectives. He has a sort of verification principle that places a limit on objectivity.
1. Philosophy / A. Wisdom / 2. Wise People
Don't use wisdom in order to become clever! [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: One ought not to use one's wisdom to become clever!
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 308)
     A reaction: And I would add 'don't think that being clever makes you wise'. Nietzsche, as always, is subtler than me (which is why I read him a lot). Presumably wisdom is broad, and cleverness is focused. Will becoming clever spoil someone's wisdom?
The wisest man is full of contradictions, and attuned to other people, with occasional harmony [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The wisest man would be the one richest in contradictions, who has, as it were, antennae for all types of men - as well as his great moments of grand harmony - a rare accident even in us!
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Will to Power (notebooks) [1888], §259)
     A reaction: By 'us' does he mean himself? Whether the rest of us thought such a person to be wise would depend on whether we met them on a contradictory or a harmonious day. Permanent harmony should be viewed with suspicion.
1. Philosophy / C. History of Philosophy / 2. Ancient Philosophy / b. Pre-Socratic philosophy
Philosophy really got started as the rival mode of discourse to tragedy [Critchley]
     Full Idea: The pre-Socratics are interesting, but philosophy really begins in drama; it's a competitive discourse to tragedy. Which is why Plato's 'Republic' excludes the poets: they're the competition; gotta get rid of them.
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 6)
     A reaction: That's an interesting and novel perspective. So what was the 'discourse' of tragedy saying, and why did that provoke the new rival? Was it too fatalistic?
1. Philosophy / C. History of Philosophy / 4. Later European Philosophy / d. Nineteenth century philosophy
Early 19th century German philosophers enjoyed concepts, rather than scientific explanations [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Early 19th century German philosophers retreated to the first and oldest level of speculation, for, like the thinkers of dreamy ages, they found satisfaction in concepts rather than in explanations - they resuscitated a prescientific type of philosophy.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 197)
     A reaction: I have a suspicion that this may still apply to 'continental philosophy'. Personally I love explanations, which lead to understanding. But not all explanations are scientific.
Carlyle spent his life vainly trying to make reason appear romantic [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Thomas Carlyle spent a long life trying to make reason romantic to his fellow Englishmen: to no avail!
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 298)
     A reaction: An interesting gloss on the shift from the Enlightenment to the Romantic era. Presumably the idea of the 'genius' and the 'hero' are the means whereby Carlyle hoped to achive this.
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 1. Philosophy
If philosophy could be summarised it would be pointless [Adorno]
     Full Idea: Philosophy is in essence not summarisable. Otherwise it would be superfluous; that most of it allows its to be summarised speaks against it.
     From: Theodor W. Adorno (Negative Dialectics [1966], p.34), quoted by Gerhard Richter - Benjamin and Adorno 3
     A reaction: This seems contradict the Cicero quotation which I take to be the epigraph of my collection of ideas. Adorno has a very 'continental' view, placing philosophy much closer to poetry (Heidegger's later view) than to science. Not like advocacy either.
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 4. Aims of Philosophy / d. Philosophy as puzzles
Philosophy begins in disappointment, notably in religion and politics [Critchley]
     Full Idea: I claim that philosophy begins in disappointment, and there are two forms of disappointment that interest me: religious and political disappointment
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 2)
     A reaction: You are only disappointed by reality if you expected something better. To be disappointed by the failures of religion strikes me as rather old-fashioned, which Critchley sort of admits. Given the size and tumult of modern states, politics isn't promising.
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 6. Despair over Philosophy
What we think is totally dictated by the language available to express it [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: We have at every moment only that very thought for which we have ready to hand the words that are roughly capable of expressing it.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 257)
     A reaction: This is a highly influential idea, even if this expression of it is little known. Everyone who places language at the centre of philosophy believes something like this. It is a very striking thought, and must certainly contain considerable truth.
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 1. Nature of Metaphysics
Metaphysics aims at the essence of things, and a system to show how this explains other truths [Richardson]
     Full Idea: The core of metaphysics is an account of the 'essence' or 'being' of things. ...And metaphysics needs system, to show how these primary truths reach out into all the other truths, to help us see that, and how, they are true.
     From: John Richardson (Nietzsche's System [2002], Intro)
     A reaction: I like the phrase 'the essential nature' of things, because it doesn't invoke rather dodgy entities called 'essences', but everyone understands the idea of focusing on what is essential, and on things having a distinct 'nature'.
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 2. Possibility of Metaphysics
Metaphysics needs systems, because analysis just obsesses over details [Richardson]
     Full Idea: Metaphysics makes system a virtue, contrary to the tendency of analysis, which breaks a problem into ever finer parts and then absorbs itself in these.
     From: John Richardson (Nietzsche's System [2002], Intro)
     A reaction: I disagree, because it seems to rule out analytic metaphysics. I prefer Bertrand Russell's view. Admittedly analysis oftens gets stuck in the bog, especially if it hopes for salvation in logic, only to discover its certainties endlessly receding.
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 3. Metaphysics as Science
Metaphysics generalises the data, to get at the ontology [Richardson]
     Full Idea: The evidence lies at the periphery of the [metaphysical] system and runs in from there, through decreasingly specific accounts of the data, to the central ontology.
     From: John Richardson (Nietzsche's System [2002], Intro)
     A reaction: Philosophy is the study of high level generalisations, IMHO. Studying them means studying the reasons for asserting them. Richardson puts it very nicely.
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 5. Metaphysics as Conceptual
Nietzsche has a metaphysics, as well as perspectives - the ontology is the perspectives [Nietzsche ,by Richardson]
     Full Idea: Nietzsche's thought includes both a metaphysics and a perspectivism, once these are more complexly grasped. But I argue that the metaphysics is basic: it's an ontology of perspectives.
     From: report of Friedrich Nietzsche (Works (refs to 8 vol Colli and Montinari) [1885]) by John Richardson - Nietzsche's System Intro
     A reaction: Very good. If it was just gormless relativism, which is what many people hope for in Nietzsche, why is it many perspectives? If they are just relative, having lots of them is no help. The point is they sum, and increase verisimilitude.
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 3. Necessary/Sufficient Conditions
'Necessary' conditions are requirements, and 'sufficient' conditions are guarantees [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: A 'necessary' condition for something's being an X is condition that all Xs must satisfy. ...A 'sufficient' condition for something's being an X is a condition that, when satisfied, guarantees that what satisfies it is an X.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 2.1)
     A reaction: By summarising this I arrive at the requirement/guarantee formulation, which I am rather pleased with. What is required for rain, and what guarantees rain?
1. Philosophy / G. Scientific Philosophy / 3. Scientism
Science gives us an excessively theoretical view of life [Critchley]
     Full Idea: One of the problems with the scientific worldview is that it leads human beings to have an overwhelmingly theoretical relationship to the world.
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 2)
     A reaction: Critchley is defending phenomenology, but this also supports its cousin, existentialism. I keep meeting bright elderly men who have immersed themselves in the study of science, and they seem very remote from the humanist culture I love.
1. Philosophy / H. Continental Philosophy / 2. Phenomenology
Phenomenology uncovers and redescribes the pre-theoretical layer of life [Critchley]
     Full Idea: Phenomenology is a philosophical method that tries to uncover the pre-theoretical layer of human experience and redescribe it.
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 2)
     A reaction: I would be delighted if someone could tell me what this means in practice. I have the impression of lots of talk about phenomenology, but not much doing of it. Clearly I must enquire further.
2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 7. Status of Reason
Reason is just another organic drive, developing late, and fighting for equality [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Reason is a support organ that slowly develops itself, ...and emancipates itself slowly to equal rights with the organic drives - so that reason (belief and knowledge) fights with the drives, as itself a new drive, very late come to preponderance.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Works (refs to 8 vol Colli and Montinari) [1885], 9/11[243]), quoted by John Richardson - Nietzsche's System 4.3.2 n55
     A reaction: A very powerful and fascinating idea. There is a silly post-modern tendency to think that Nietzsche denegrates and trivialises reason because of remarks like this, but he takes ranking the drives to be the supreme activity. I rank reason high.
2. Reason / D. Definition / 1. Definitions
A definition of a thing gives all the requirements which add up to a guarantee of it [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: If we specify the 'necessary' conditions that are 'sufficient' for something's being an X, that is a combination of conditions such that all and only Xs meet them, which is the hallmark of a definition of X-hood.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 2.1)
     A reaction: There are, of course, many other ways to define something, as shown in the 2.D Reason | Definition section of this database. This nicely summarises the classical view.
2. Reason / D. Definition / 12. Against Definition
Feminists warn that ideologies use timeless objective definitions as a tool of repression [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: According to the feminist critique, ideologies that operate as tools of political repression are falsely represented as definitions possessing a timeless, natural, asocial, universal objectivity.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 2.2)
     A reaction: I suppose this does not just apply to definitions, but to all expressions of ideologically repressive strategy. I'm trying to think of an example of a specifically feminist problem case. Davies doesn't cite anyone.
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 3. Value of Truth
Why should truth be omnipotent? It is enough that it is very powerful [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: I have no idea why the dictatorship and omnipotence of truth would be desirable; it's sufficient for me that it has great power.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], §507)
     A reaction: I once heard a philosopher (at Essex University) assert that truth is the only value, which was interesting. Nietzsche actually wants to endorse the value of lies and deceptions, like the 'noble lie' in Plato's Republic.
Truth was given value by morality, but eventually turned against its own source [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Among the forces cultivated by morality was truthfulness: this eventually turned against morality, discovered its teleology, its partial perspective.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Will to Power (notebooks) [1888], §0015)
     A reaction: Just as 'duty' is said to have withered in modern times, because its religious underpinning has been lost, so this gives an account of the decline of the value of truth. It is still left to us to assert the value of truth, perhaps as the only value.
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 4. Uses of Truth
Truth is what unites, and the profound truths create a community [Jaspers]
     Full Idea: Truth is what unites. ...[p.145] The most profound truth is that which all men might understand so as to form one community.
     From: Karl Jaspers (Philosophy [1932], vol.2)
     A reaction: Nice slogan, for robust realists like me. The hallmark of truth is our convergence on it. This is a 20th century existentialist perfectly expounding the enlightenment dream. The best rhetoric is truthful rhetoric.
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 8. Subjective Truth
The highest truth we can get is uncertainty held fast by an inward passion [Kierkegaard]
     Full Idea: An objective uncertainty held fast in an appropriation-process of the most passionate inwardness is the truth, the highest truth available for an existing individual.
     From: Søren Kierkegaard (Concluding Unscientific Postscript [1846])
     A reaction: [ref?] He offers this as a definition of truth, knowing how strange and paradoxical it sounds. If we view all life as subjectivity, then there can of course be nothing more to truth than passionate conviction. Personally I think thought can be objective.
5. Theory of Logic / B. Logical Consequence / 5. Modus Ponens
If our ideas are adequate, what follows from them is also adequate [Spinoza]
     Full Idea: Whatever ideas follow in the mind from ideas which are adequate in the mind are also adequate.
     From: Baruch de Spinoza (The Ethics [1675], II Pr 40)
     A reaction: This appears to be Modus Ponens, and he calls it (in Sch 1) 'the foundations of our reasoning'. If 'adequate' ideas are knowledge, then this also seems to say that knowledge is closed under known implication.
5. Theory of Logic / C. Ontology of Logic / 4. Logic by Convention
Logic needs general conventions, but that needs logic to apply them to individual cases [Quine ,by Rey]
     Full Idea: Quine argues that logic could not be established by conventions, since the logical truths, being infinite in number, must be given by general conventions rather than singly; and logic is needed in the meta-theory, to apply to individual cases.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Truth by Convention [1935]) by Georges Rey - The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction 3.4
     A reaction: A helpful insight into Quine's claim. If only someone would print these one sentence summaries at the top of classic papers, we would all get far more out of them at first reading. Assuming Rey is right!
5. Theory of Logic / L. Paradox / 4. Paradoxes in Logic / a. Achilles paradox
Zeno assumes collecting an infinity of things makes an infinite thing [Rovelli]
     Full Idea: One possible answer is that Zeno is wrong because it is not true that by accumulating an infinite number of things one ends up with an infinite thing.
     From: Carlo Rovelli (Reality is Not What it Seems [2014], 01)
     A reaction: I do love it when deep and complex ideas are expressed with perfect simplicity. As long as the simple version is correct.
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 3. Numbers / o. Units
We need 'unities' for reckoning, but that does not mean they exist [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: We need 'unities' in order to be able to reckon: that does not mean we must suppose that such unities exist.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Will to Power (notebooks) [1888], §635)
     A reaction: True. I takes this thought to be important in the Psychology of Metaphysics (an unfashionable branch).
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 3. Being / c. Becoming
The apprehensions of reason remain unchanging, but reasonless sensation shows mere becoming [Plato]
     Full Idea: That which is apprehended by intelligence and reason is always in the same state, but that which is conceived by opinion with the help of sensation and without reason is always in a process of becoming and perishing, and never really is.
     From: Plato (Timaeus [c.349 BCE], 28a)
     A reaction: Lots of problems with this, of which I take the main one to be the idea that sensation is 'without reason', as if there were a sharp dichotomy in our ways of evaluating reality. Laws of nature seem to be laws of change, not of stasis.
We Germans value becoming and development more highly than mere being of what 'is' [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: We Germans are Hegelians insofar as we instinctively attribute a deeper sense and richer value to becoming and development than to what 'is'.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Gay Science [1882], §357)
     A reaction: I always doubt Nietzsche's claims about 'we Germans' or 'we philosophers'. They say that, intellectually, everyone is either French or German, and my immediate response was to embrace being German. So becoming is where it's at.
The nature of being, of things, is much easier to understand than is becoming [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The doctrine of being, of things, of all sorts of fixed unities is a hundred times easier than the doctrine of becoming, of development.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Will to Power (notebooks) [1888], §238)
     A reaction: I don't know if he intended it, but this is a fierce shaft hurled at Aristotle, who gives a wonderful essentialist account of the nature of things, but can offer nothing more on becoming than the doctrine of potentiality and actuality.
7. Existence / B. Change in Existence / 2. Processes
Quantum mechanics deals with processes, rather than with things [Rovelli]
     Full Idea: Quantum mechanics teaches us not to think about the world in terms of 'things' which are in this or that state, but in terms of 'processes' instead.
     From: Carlo Rovelli (Reality is Not What it Seems [2014], 04)
7. Existence / B. Change in Existence / 4. Events / b. Events as primitive
Quantum mechanics describes the world entirely as events [Rovelli]
     Full Idea: The world of quantum mechanics is not a world of objects: it is a world of events.
     From: Carlo Rovelli (Reality is Not What it Seems [2014], 04)
     A reaction: I presume a philosopher is allowed to ask what an 'event' is. Since, as Rovelli tells it, time is eliminated from the picture, events seem to be unanalysable primitives.
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 5. Class Nominalism
Classes rarely share properties with their members - unlike universals and types [Wollheim]
     Full Idea: Classes can share properties with their members (e.g. the class of big things is big), but this is very rare. ....In the case of both universals and types, there will be shared properties. Red things can be exhilarating, and so can redness.
     From: Richard Wollheim (Art and Its Objects [1968], 92)
     A reaction: 'Exhilarating' is an extrinsic property, so not the best illustration. This is interesting, but would need checking with a wide range of examples. (Too busy for that right now)
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 1. Unifying an Object / c. Unity as conceptual
We saw unity in things because our ego seemed unified (but now we doubt the ego!) [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: We borrowed the concept of unity from our 'ego' concept - our oldest article of faith. If we did not hold ourselves to be unified, we would never have formed the concept 'thing'. Now, somewhat late, we are convinced that the ego does not guarantee unity.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Will to Power (notebooks) [1888], §635)
     A reaction: Nietzsche tells a similar story about the emergence and subsequent undermining of truth. I am becoming an enthusiast for Nietzsche's account of how our psychology has generated out metaphysics - which doesn't make the metaphysics false.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 3. Individual Essences
We begin with concepts of kinds, from individuals; but that is not the essence of individuals [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The overlooking of individuals gives us the concept and with this our knowledge begins: in categorising, in the setting up of kinds. But the essence of things does not correspond to this.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Works (refs to 8 vol Colli and Montinari) [1885], p.51)
     A reaction: [dated c1873] Aha! So Nietzsche agrees with me in my defence of individual essences, against kind essences (which seem to me to obviously derive from the nature of individuals). Deep in my heart I knew I would find this quotation one day.
10. Modality / D. Knowledge of Modality / 4. Conceivable as Possible / a. Conceivable as possible
Error does not result from imagining, but from lacking the evidence of impossibility [Spinoza]
     Full Idea: The mind does not err from the fact that it imagines, but only insofar as it is considered to lack an idea which excludes the existence of those things which it imagines to be present to it.
     From: Baruch de Spinoza (The Ethics [1675], II Pr17 s)
     A reaction: These may be the wisest words I have yet found on conceivability and possibility. My example is imagining a bonfire on the moon, which seems possible until you fully grasp what fire is.
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 3. Value of Knowledge
Most people treat knowledge as a private possession [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Most people take a thing they know under their protection, as if knowing it turned it into their possession.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 285)
     A reaction: A typically wicked and subtle remark. This presumably makes knowledge part of the will to power, with which Francis Bacon would presumably agree.
12. Knowledge Sources / A. A Priori Knowledge / 1. Nature of the A Priori
The traditional a priori is justified without experience; post-Quine it became unrevisable by experience [Rey]
     Full Idea: Where Kant and others had traditionally assumed that the a priori concerned beliefs 'justifiable independently of experience', Quine and others of the time came to regard it as beliefs 'unrevisable in the light of experience'.
     From: Georges Rey (The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction [2013], 3.7)
     A reaction: That throws a rather striking light on Quine's project. Of course, if the a priori is also necessary, then it has to be unrevisable. But is a bachelor necessarily an unmarried man? It is not necessary that 'bachelor' has a fixed meaning.
12. Knowledge Sources / C. Rationalism / 1. Rationalism
The desire for a complete system requires making the weak parts look equal to the rest [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: There is playacting going on among systematisers: inasmuch as they want to make the system whole and round off the horizon around it, they must attempt to have their weaker qualities appear in the same style as their strong ones.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 318)
     A reaction: Filed under 'rationalism', because they are the notorious system builders, but the same tendency and problem can be seen to some extent among empiricsts who seek completeness. David Lewis, perhaps.
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 2. Associationism
Once we have experience two feelings together, one will always give rise to the other [Spinoza]
     Full Idea: If the mind has once been affected by two affects at once, then afterwards, when it is affected by one of them, it will also be affected by the other.
     From: Baruch de Spinoza (The Ethics [1675], IIIPr14)
     A reaction: This strikes me as better expressed than Hume's version, which relies on examples. It is more generalised than Hume, since it will cover contiguity and resemblance and causation, all under the heading of the arising affects.
12. Knowledge Sources / E. Direct Knowledge / 3. Memory
We may be unable to remember, but we may never actually forget [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: It has yet to be proven that there is such a thing as forgetting; all we know is that the act of remembering is not within our power.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 126)
     A reaction: There is some evidence for this. We forget innumerable people, but then find that we recognise them if we meet them many years later. Anecdotes report very ancient memories suddenly surfacing.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 5. Coherentism / b. Pro-coherentism
Encounters with things confuse the mind, and internal comparisons bring clarity [Spinoza]
     Full Idea: The mind has only a confused knowledge of itself, its own body, and external bodies, as long as it is perceived from fortuitous encounters with things, ...and not internally, from the agreements, differences and oppositions of a number of things at once.
     From: Baruch de Spinoza (The Ethics [1675], II Pr29s)
     A reaction: [compressed] This is a very nice expression of the commitment to coherence as justification, typical of the rationalist view of things. Empiricists are trapped in an excessively atomistic concept of knowledge (one impression or sense datum at a time).
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 1. Scientific Theory
There is no one scientific method; we must try many approaches, and many emotions [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: There is no one and only scientific method that leads to knowledge. We must proceed experimentally with things, be sometimes angry, sometimes affectionate towards them, and allow justice, passion, and coldness to follow one upon another.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 432)
     A reaction: Alexander Bird says the same thing in our time. I agree, but I think there is a core of controlled conditions and peer review.
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 3. Abstraction by mind
Leaves are unequal, but we form the concept 'leaf' by discarding their individual differences [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Every concept arises through the setting equal of the unequal. Just as it is certain that one leaf is never wholly equal to another, so it is certain that the concept leaf is formed by arbitrarily discarding these individual differences.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense [1872]), quoted by John Richardson - Nietzsche's System 2.1.1 n28
     A reaction: Nietzsche adds an interesting aspect to psychological abstraction, of abstracting away the differences between things, which we might label as the (further) capacity for Equalisation. If two cars differ only in a blemish, we abstract away the blemish.
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 4. Objectification
We often treat a type as if it were a sort of token [Wollheim]
     Full Idea: Much of the time we think and talk of a type as though it were itself a kind of token.
     From: Richard Wollheim (Art and Its Objects [1968], 35)
     A reaction: A helpful way of connecting what I call 'objectification' to the more conventional modern philosophical vocabulary. Thus I might claim that beauty is superior to truth, as if they were two tokens.
16. Persons / A. Concept of a Person / 1. Existence of Persons
There are no 'individual' persons; we are each the sum of humanity up to this moment [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The 'individual' ...is an error: he does not constitute a separate entity, an atom, a 'link in the chain', something merely inherited from the past - he constitutes the entire single line 'man' up to and including himself.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Twilight of the Idols [1889], 8.33)
     A reaction: I'm not sure I understand this, but you can sort of imagine yourself as a culmination of something, rather than as an isolated entity. I'm not sure how that is supposed to affect my behaviour.
16. Persons / B. Concept of the Self / 1. Essential Self
The ranking of a person's innermost drives reveals their true nature [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: To know 'who he is', we must know the order of rank the innermost drives of his nature stand in relative to one another.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil [1886], §006)
     A reaction: This is clearly an essentialist view of a person, as having a 'nature', which is 'inner', and which we can try to specify. Ranking drives and values seems a good proposal for getting at it. I'm also intrigued by what people find interesting.
16. Persons / C. Self-Awareness / 2. Self-Knowledge
Just as skin hides the horrors of the body, vanity conceals the passions of the soul [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Just as the bones, flesh, intestines, and blood vessels are enclosed with skin, which makes the sight of a man bearable, so the stirrings and passions of the soul are covered up by vanity: it is the skin of the soul.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], §082)
     A reaction: What a glorious analogy! None of us should underestimate our vanity. The least vain people you ever meet can reveal their vanity if you challenge them close to home. Try accusing them of vanity! Attack their essential character! (No, don't do that).
Most of us are too close to our own motives to understand them [Fry]
     Full Idea: The motives we actually experience are too close to us to enable us to feel them clearly. They are in a sense unintelligible.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.30)
     A reaction: Fry is defending the role of art in clarifying and highlighting such things, but I am not convinced by his claim. We can grasp most of our motives with a little introspection, and those we can't grasp are probably too subtle for art as well.
16. Persons / C. Self-Awareness / 3. Undetectable Self
Our knowledge of the many drives that constitute us is hopelessly incomplete [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: No matter how hard a person struggles for self-knowledge, nothing can be more incomplete than the image of all the drives taken together than constitute his being.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 119)
     A reaction: This gives the concept of personal identity that arises from the (later) doctrine of the 'will to power'. It is a bundle view of the self, but a bundle of drives rather than of percepts and mental events. His view is close to Hume's.
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 1. Free Will / a. Nature of free will
Freedom needs knowledge, the possibility of arbitrariness, and law [Jaspers]
     Full Idea: Without knowledge there is no freedom ....and without an arbitrary act there is no freedom, ....and there is no freedom without law.
     From: Karl Jaspers (Philosophy [1932], vol.2)
     A reaction: He emphasises that an arbitrary act is not a free act, but it is a precondition for being free. The submission to law is active freedom. If you believe in education (and you should) you must believe that knowledge is liberating.
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 1. Free Will / b. Pro-free will
I am aware that freedom is possible, and the freedom is not in theory, but in seeking freedom [Jaspers]
     Full Idea: Either there is no freedom or it is in asking about it. But what makes me ask is an original will to be free, so my freedom is anticipated in the fact of asking. I cannot prove it first, then will it. I will it because I am conscious of its possibility.
     From: Karl Jaspers (Philosophy [1932], vol.2)
     A reaction: This presents the subjective claims for free will rather more persuasively than usual. I am conscious of a possibility that I might flap my arms and fly, so that doesn't establish anything. But yearning to be free is a sort of freedom.
17. Mind and Body / A. Mind-Body Dualism / 6. Epiphenomenalism
Consciousness is a terminal phenomenon, and causes nothing [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Everything of which we become conscious is a terminal phenomenon, an end - and causes nothing.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Will to Power (notebooks) [1888], §478)
     A reaction: This appears to endorse epiphenomenalism - which I take to be an incoherent concept. How can becoming fully aware of something, rather than subliminally or subconsciously aware, make no difference at all? If it exists, it has causal powers.
18. Thought / B. Mechanics of Thought / 1. Psychology
It is psychology which reveals the basic problems [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Psychology is now once again the road to the fundamental problems.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil [1886], §023)
     A reaction: This may become the epigraph of my great book, which will have as working title 'The Psychology of Metaphysics'. If you trawl through this collection, you will see where I am going! (A tough job, but easier than reading Hegel).
18. Thought / C. Content / 2. Ideas
An idea involves affirmation or negation [Spinoza]
     Full Idea: An idea, insofar as it is an idea, involves an affirmation or negation.
     From: Baruch de Spinoza (The Ethics [1675], II Pr49 sII)
     A reaction: Spinoza clearly distinguishes ideas from images, and here seems to identify ideas with propositions. Nowadays we say these are 'true or false', but Spinoza is more personal and psychological. I prefer his way of putting it.
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 8. Synonymy
Externalist synonymy is there being a correct link to the same external phenomena [Rey]
     Full Idea: Externalists are typically committed to counting expressions as 'synonymous' if they happen to be linked in the right way to the same external phenomena, even if a thinker couldn't realise that they are by reflection alone.
     From: Georges Rey (The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction [2013], 4.2)
     A reaction: [He cites Fodor] Externalists always try to link to concrete things in the world, but most of our talk is full of generalities, abstractions and fiction which don't link directly to anything.
19. Language / E. Analyticity / 1. Analytic Propositions
If the predicate is contained in the subject of a judgement, it is analytic; otherwise synthetic [Kant]
     Full Idea: In judgements, the relation of subject to predicate is possible in two ways. Either the predicate B belongs to the subject A as (covertly) contained in this concept A; or B lies entirely outside A. The first I call analytic, the second synthetic.
     From: Immanuel Kant (Critique of Pure Reason [1781], A006)
     A reaction: Rey says this is the first introduction of the analytic/synthetic disctinction. Modern philosophers seem to reject this definition, mainly because they are suspicious of the vague word 'contained'. Depends what a concept is.
Analytic judgements clarify, by analysing the subject into its component predicates [Kant]
     Full Idea: One could call an analytic judgement one of clarification ...since the predicate does not add anything to the concept of the subject, but only breaks it up by means of analysis into its component concepts.
     From: Immanuel Kant (Critique of Pure Reason [1781], A007)
     A reaction: This is a very illuminating view of the concept, which seems to have fallen into disrepute. If we ask what predicates are contained in 'tree', we may quickly have to embrace essentialism, to decide which predicates matter.
Analytic judgements can't be explained by contradiction, since that is what is assumed [Rey]
     Full Idea: Rejecting 'a married bachelor' as contradictory would seem to have no justification other than the claim that 'All bachelors are unmarried is analytic, and so cannot serve to justify or explain that claim.
     From: Georges Rey (The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction [2013], 1.2)
     A reaction: Rey is discussing Frege's objection to Kant (who tried to prove the necessity of analytic judgements, on the basis of the denial being a contradiction).
'Married' does not 'contain' its symmetry, nor 'bigger than' its transitivity [Rey]
     Full Idea: If Bob is married to Sue, then Sue is married to Bob. If x bigger than y, and y bigger than z, x is bigger than z. The symmetry of 'marriage' or transitivity of 'bigger than' are not obviously 'contained in' the corresponding thoughts.
     From: Georges Rey (The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction [2013], 1.2)
     A reaction: [Also 'if something is red, then it is coloured'] This is a Fregean criticism of Kant. It is not so much that Kant was wrong, as that the concept of analyticity is seen to have a much wider application than Kant realised. Especially in mathematics.
Analytic statements are undeniable (because of meaning), rather than unrevisable [Rey]
     Full Idea: What's peculiar about the analytic is that denying it seem unintelligible. Far from unrevisability explaining analyticity, it seems to be analyticitiy that explains unrevisability; we only balk at denying unmarried bachelors because that's what it means!
     From: Georges Rey (The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction [2013], 3.7)
     A reaction: This is a criticism of Quine, who attacked analyticity when it is understood as unrevisability. Obviously we could revise the concept of 'bachelor', if our marriage customs changed a lot. Rey seems right here.
The meaning properties of a term are those which explain how the term is typically used [Rey]
     Full Idea: It may be that the meaning properties of a term are the ones that play a basic explanatory role with regard to the use of the term generally, the ones in virtue ultimately of which a term is used with that meaning.
     From: Georges Rey (The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction [2013], 4.3)
     A reaction: [He cites Devitt 1996, 2002, and Horwich 1998, 2005) I spring to philosophical life whenever I see the word 'explanatory', because that is the point of the whole game. They are pointing to the essence of the concept (which is explanatory, say I).
An intrinsic language faculty may fix what is meaningful (as well as grammatical) [Rey]
     Full Idea: The existence of a separate language faculty may be an odd but psychologically real fact about us, and it may thereby supply a real basis for commitments about not only what is or is not grammatical, but about what is a matter of natural language meaning.
     From: Georges Rey (The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction [2013], 4.4)
     A reaction: This is the Chomskyan view of analytic sentences. An example from Chomsky (1977:142) is the semantic relationships of persuade, intend and believe. It's hard to see how the secret faculty on its own could do the job. Consensus is needed.
Research throws doubts on the claimed intuitions which support analyticity [Rey]
     Full Idea: The movement of 'experimental philosophy' has pointed to evidence of considerable malleability of subject's 'intuitions' with regard to the standard kinds of thought experiments on which defenses of analytic claims typically rely.
     From: Georges Rey (The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction [2013], 4.4)
     A reaction: See Cappelen's interesting attack on the idea that philosophy relies on intuitions, and hence his attack on experimental philosophy. Our consensus on ordinary English usage hardly qualifies as somewhat vague 'intuitions'.
19. Language / E. Analyticity / 2. Analytic Truths
All analytic truths can become logical truths, by substituting definitions or synonyms [Frege ,by Rey]
     Full Idea: Frege appealed to definition, or (if 'meaning' is preserved) synonymy: the non-logical analytic truths can be converted to logical truths by substitution of definitions for defined terms, or synonyms for synonyms.
     From: report of Gottlob Frege (Grundlagen der Arithmetik (Foundations) [1884], §005, 88) by Georges Rey - The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction 1.2
     A reaction: This is a 'dogma of empiricism' attacked by Quine. It seems rather obvious (with hindsight?) that you can smuggle whatever is required to do the job into your definition. Or assert some slightly dubious synonymy.
19. Language / E. Analyticity / 4. Analytic/Synthetic Critique
If we claim direct insight to what is analytic, how do we know it is not sub-consciously empirical? [Rey]
     Full Idea: How in the end are we going to distinguish claims or the analytic as 'rational insight', 'primitive compulsion', inferential practice or folk belief from merely some deeply held empirical conviction, indeed, from mere dogma.
     From: Georges Rey (The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction [2013], 4.1)
     A reaction: This is Rey's summary of the persisting Quinean challenge to analytic truths, in the face of a set of replies, summarised by the various phrases here. So do we reject a dogma of empiricism, by asserting dogmatic empiricism?
19. Language / F. Communication / 1. Rhetoric
It is essential that wise people learn to express their wisdom, possibly even as foolishness [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: It is not yet enough to prove a thing, one must seduce people to accept it or raise them up to it. That is why a knowledgeable person ought to learn to speak his wisdom: and often in such a way that it sounds like foolishness.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 330)
     A reaction: Kant comes to mind. He has needed endless exegesis by people who write better than him. Have there been even greater philosophers who couldn't express their wisdom at all? Cratylus, perhaps!
20. Action / B. Preliminaries of Action / 2. Willed Action / b. Volitionism
The cause of my action is in my will [Shakespeare]
     Full Idea: The cause is in my will. I will not come./That is enough to satisfy the senate./But for your private satisfaction,/Because I love you, I will let you know.
     From: William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar [1599], II.ii)
     A reaction: This asserts the purest form of volitionism, but then qualifies it, because Caesar's will has been influenced by his wife's dreams.
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 1. Acting on Desires
Whenever we act, then desire is our very essence [Spinoza]
     Full Idea: Desire is man's very essence, insofar as it is agreed to be determined, from any affection of it, to do something. ...Desire is appetite, together with the consciousness of it.
     From: Baruch de Spinoza (The Ethics [1675], III Def of Aff I)
     A reaction: [I think that is the gist of it!] This sounds a bit circular, but seems to say that actions are almost entireoy the expression of desires.
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 4. Responsibility for Actions
Actions done for a purpose are least understood, because we complacently think it's obvious [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Of all actions, the ones least understood are those undertaken for a purpose, no doubt because they have always passed for the most intelligible and are to our way of thinking the most commonplace.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 127)
     A reaction: You feel that Nietzsche is right about our stupendous lack of of self-knowledge, but then a bit of a panic ensues, because it is not clear what you are supposed to do about anything, particularly if we don't know why anyone else does anything.
My freedom increases as I broaden my vision of possiblities and motives [Jaspers]
     Full Idea: I become free by incessantly broadening my worldly orientation, by limitlessly visualising premises and possibilities of action, and by allowing all motives to speak to me. ...The more the totality determines my vision the freer I know I am.
     From: Karl Jaspers (Philosophy [1932], vol.2)
     A reaction: This matches my naturalistic view of responsibility for actions, which are those performed by the 'full' and knowing self. I note that freedom comes in degrees for him, so he presumably don't believe in absolute freedom. It is wholly subjective.
21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 1. Aesthetics
Modern attention has moved from the intrinsic properties of art to its relational properties [Lamarque/Olson]
     Full Idea: In modern discussions, rather than look for intrinsic properties of objects, including aesthetic or formal properties, attention has turned to extrinsic or relational properties, notably of a social, historical, or 'institutional' nature.
     From: Lamargue,P/Olson,SH (Introductions to 'Aesthetics and the Phil of Art' [2004], Pt 1)
     A reaction: Lots of modern branches of philosophy have made this move, which seems to me like a defeat. We want to know why things have the relations they do. Just mapping the relations is superficial Humeanism.
By 1790 aestheticians were mainly trying to explain individual artistic genius [Kemp]
     Full Idea: By 1790 the idea that a central task for the aesthetician was to explain or at least adequately to describe the phenomenon of the individual artistic genius had definitely taken hold.
     From: Gary Kemp (Croce and Collingwood [2012], Intro)
     A reaction: Hence when Kant and Hegel write about art, though are only really thinking of the greatest art (which might be in touch with the sublime or Spirit etc.). Nowadays I think we expect accounts of art to cover modest amateur efforts as well.
21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 2. Aesthetic Attitude
Imaginative life requires no action, so new kinds of perception and values emerge in art [Fry]
     Full Idea: In the imaginative life no action is necessary, so the whole consciousness may be focused upon the perceptive and the emotional aspects of the experience. Hence we get a different set of values, and a different kind of perception
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.24)
     A reaction: Good. A huge range of human activities are like scientific experiments, where you draw on our evolved faculties, but put them in controlled conditions, where the less convenient and stressful parts are absent. War and sport. Real and theatrical tragedy.
Everyone reveals an aesthetic attitude, looking at something which only exists to be seen [Fry]
     Full Idea: It is only when an object exists for no other purpose than to be seen that we really look at it, …and then even the most normal person adopts to some extent the artistic attitude of pure vision abstracted from necessity.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.29)
     A reaction: A painter of still life looks at things which exist for other purposes, with just the attitude which Fry attributes to the viewers of the paintings. We can encourage a child to look at a flower with just this attitude.
The aesthetic attitude is a matter of disinterestedness [Wollheim ,by Kant]
     Full Idea: The aesthetic attitude is defined by Kant in terms of disinterestedness.
     From: report of Richard Wollheim (Art and Its Objects [1968]) by Immanuel Kant - Critique of Judgement I: Aesthetic 54
     A reaction: This is presumably, mainly, to explain our enjoyment of the miseries of tragedy. We just give ourselves up to a merry jig by Haydn.
A love of nature must precede a love of art [Wollheim]
     Full Idea: We could not have a feeling for the beauties of art unless we had been correspondingly moved in front of nature.
     From: Richard Wollheim (Art and Its Objects [1968], 43)
     A reaction: Wollheim offers this in defence of Kant's view, without necessarily agreeing. Similarly one could hardly care for fictional characters, but not for real people. So the aesthetic attitude may arise from life, rather than from art. Is art hence unimportant?
The aesthetic attitude is nothing more than paying close attention [Dickie ,by Giovannelli]
     Full Idea: Once analysed, Dickie claimed, the so-called aesthetic attitude is not special at all, but is rather just a matter of close attention and focus on the subject.
     From: report of George Dickie (The Myth of the Aesthetic Attitude [1964]) by Alessandro Giovannelli - Some contemporary developments (aesthetics) 1
     A reaction: Sounds wrong. If a paint specialist gives close attention to a painting, they do not necessarily have an aesthetic view of it. You need to know the aim of the activity, just as when you watch a game.
Aesthetic experience involves perceptual, but also imagination and understanding [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: It was suggested that aesthetic experience isn't solely perceptual. It's infused by a cognitive but non-conceptual process described by Kant as involving the free play of the imagination and the understanding.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 1.2)
     A reaction: This fits literature very well, painting quite well, and music hardly at all.
21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 3. Beauty
Beauty is only judged in pure contemplation, and not with something else at stake [Kant]
     Full Idea: If the question is whether something is beautiful, one does not want to know whether there is something that is or that could be at stake, for us or for someone else, in the existence of the thing, but rather how we judge it in mere contemplation.
     From: Immanuel Kant (Critique of Judgement I: Aesthetic [1790], CUP 2 5:204), quoted by Elizabeth Schellekens - Immanuel Kant (aesthetics) 2.3
     A reaction: This evidently denies that function has anything to do with beauty, and seems to be a prelude to 'art for art's sake'. But a running cheetah cannot be separated from the sheer efficiencey and focus of the performance.
Beauty in art is the imitation of happiness [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: By beauty in art one always understands imitation of happiness.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 433)
     A reaction: I'm not sure how one goes about imitating happiness. One can replicate things that make us happy, like a nice landscape. But some beauty in art is also novel, and produces a new sort of happiness. Kandinsky.
'Beauty' can either mean sensuous charm, or the aesthetic approval of art (which may be ugly) [Fry]
     Full Idea: There is an apparent contradiction between two distinct uses of the word 'beauty', one for that which has sensuous charm, and one for the aesthetic approval of works of imaginative art where the objects presented to us are often of extreme ugliness.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.33)
     A reaction: The gouging of eyes in 'King Lear' was always the big problem case for aesthetics, just as nowadays it is Marcel Duchamp's wretched 'Fountain'.
21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 5. The Sublime
In life we neglect 'cosmic emotion', but it matters, and art brings it to the fore [Fry]
     Full Idea: Those feelings unhappily named cosmic emotion find almost no place in life, but, since they seem to belong to certain very deep springs of our nature, do become of great importance in the arts.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.31)
     A reaction: Focus on the sublime was big in the romantic era, but Fry still sees its importance, and I don't think it ever goes away. Art styles which scorn the sublime are failing to perform their social duty, say I.
The sublime is negative in awareness of insignificance, and positive in showing understanding [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: An example of the sublime is the vastness of the night sky. ...It includes negative feelings of insignificance in the face of nature's indifference, power and magnitude, but is positive in that we are capable of comprehending such matters.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 1.2)
     A reaction: The negative part seems to be a very intellectual experience, with close links to religion, and may be the experience that leads to deism (belief in God's indifference).
21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 6. Taste
With respect to the senses, taste is an entirely personal matter [Kant]
     Full Idea: With regard to the agreeable, the principle Everyone has his own taste (of the senses) is valid.
     From: Immanuel Kant (Critique of Judgement I: Aesthetic [1790], CUP 7 5:212), quoted by Elizabeth Schellekens - Immanuel Kant (aesthetics) 1
     A reaction: This is a preliminary concession, and he goes on to defend more objective views of taste.
When we judge beauty, it isn't just personal; we judge on behalf of everybody [Kant]
     Full Idea: It is ridiculous if someone justifies his tast by saying 'this object is beautiful for me'. . .If he pronounces that something is beautiful, then he expects the very same satisfaction of others: he judges not merely for himself, but for everyone.
     From: Immanuel Kant (Critique of Judgement I: Aesthetic [1790], CUP 7 5:213), quoted by Elizabeth Schellekens - Immanuel Kant (aesthetics) 1
     A reaction: For Kant this would also be the hallmark of rationality - that we expect, or hope for, a consensus when we express a rational judgement. But this expectation is far less in cases of beauty. We do not expect total agreement from very tasteful people.
Saying everyone has their own taste destroys the very idea of taste [Kant]
     Full Idea: To say thast 'Everyone has his special taste' would be to dismiss the very possibility of aesthetic taste, and to deny that there could be aesthetic judgement 'that could make a rightful claim to the assent of everyone'.
     From: Immanuel Kant (Critique of Judgement I: Aesthetic [1790], CUP 7 5:213), quoted by Elizabeth Schellekens - Immanuel Kant (aesthetics) 2.2
     A reaction: I am a great believer in the objectivity of taste (within sensible reason). But the great evidence against it is the shifting standards of taste over the centuries. Nineteenth century collectors wasted fortunes on inferior works, it seems to us.
Taste is the capacity to judge an object or representation which is thought to be beautiful [Kant]
     Full Idea: Taste is the faculty for judging an object or a kind of representation through a satisfaction or a dissatisfaction, ...where the object of such a satisfaction is called beautiful.
     From: Immanuel Kant (Critique of Judgement I: Aesthetic [1790], CUP 5 5:211), quoted by Elizabeth Schellekens - Immanuel Kant (aesthetics) 1
     A reaction: We usually avoid the word 'faculty' nowadays, because it implies a specific mechanism, but 'capacity' will do. Kant is said to focus specifically on beauty, whereas modern aestheticians have a broader view of the type of subject matter.
The faculty of 'taste' was posited to explain why only some people had aesthetic appreciation [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: To explain why not everyone who is prepared to encounter a thing's aesthetic properties can recognise them, ...eighteenth century theorists posited the existence of a special faculty of aesthetic perception, that of taste.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 1.2)
     A reaction: But there seem to be two aspects to taste - first the capacity to enjoy some sorts of art, and second the ability to discriminate the good from the bad. The latter is 'standards' of taste (Hume's title). Do non-musical people lack taste?
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 1. Defining Art
Art needs a mixture of order and variety in its sensations [Fry]
     Full Idea: The first quality that we demand in our [artistic] sensations will be order, without which our sensations will be troubled and perplexed, and the other will be variety, without which they will not be fully stimulated.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.32)
     A reaction: He makes good claims, but gives unconvincing reasons for them. Some of us rather like 'troubled and perplexed' sensations. And a very narrow range of sensations could still be highly stimulated. Is Fry a good aesthetician but a modest philosopher?
'Form' is visual relations, and it is 'significant' if it moves us aesthetically; art needs both [Bell,C ,by Feagin]
     Full Idea: By 'form' Bell means the relations of lines, colours and shapes. Forms are 'significant' when the relationships of lines and so on move us aesthetically. If something is art it must have, to at least a minimum extent, significant form.
     From: report of Clive Bell (Art [1914], p.17) by Susan Feagin - Roger Fry and Clive Bell 3
     A reaction: So art has two necessary conditions - that it move us aesthetically, and that it does so by means of its form. The obvious problem is to explain which forms are 'significant' without mentioning the aesthetic feeling they have to invoke.
Art is a referential activity, hence indefinable, but it has a set of symptoms [Goodman]
     Full Idea: No definition of art is possible (since it is a referential activity), …but the symptoms of art are syntactic density, semantic density, syntactic repleteness, exemplificationality, and multiple and complex reference.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Languages of Art (2nd edn) [1968], p.22-255), quoted by Alessandro Giovannelli - Nelson Goodman (aesthetics) 4
     A reaction: I wish these labels were more self-explanatory. Goodman seems to want to assimilate art to his earlier interests in linguistic anti-realism and mereology. I wouldn't have thought he now had many followers.
A criterion of identity for works of art would be easier than a definition [Wollheim]
     Full Idea: Maybe, rather than defining art, it would be more fruitful, and more realistic, to seek a general method of identifying works of art.
     From: Richard Wollheim (Art and Its Objects [1968], 60)
     A reaction: The whole enterprise is ruined by Marcel Duchamp! I'm more interested in identifying or defining good art.
Early 20th cent attempts at defining art focused on significant form, intuition, expression, unity [Lamarque/Olson]
     Full Idea: In the early twentieth century there were numerous attempts at defining the essence art. Significant form, intuition, the expression of emotion, organic unity, and other notions, were offered to this end.
     From: Lamargue,P/Olson,SH (Introductions to 'Aesthetics and the Phil of Art' [2004], Pt 1)
     A reaction: As far as I can see the whole of aesthetics was demolished in one blow by Marcel Duchamp's urinal. Artists announce: we will tell you what art is; you should just sit and listen. Compare the invention of an anarchic sport.
The idea that art forms are linked into a single concept began in the 1740s [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: The first to link the art forms together explicitly and to separate them from other disciplines and activities were the authors of encyclopedias and books in the 1740s and 1750s.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 1.2)
     A reaction: Intriguing that no individual seems to get the credit (or blame). Presumably our modern Aesthetics (applied to art) couldn't exist before this move was made - and yet there is plenty of aesthetic discussion in early Greek philosophy.
Defining art as representation or expression or fom were all undermined by the avant-garde [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: The avant-garde art of the twentieth century played a significant role in defeating definitions that had prevailed in earlier times, such as ones maintaining that art is representation, expression or significant form
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 2.2)
     A reaction: I really think the first rule of philosophical aesthetics is 'ignore Marcel Duchamp'. We wouldn't give up our idea of philosophy if someone managed to publish a long string of expletives in a philosophy journal. Would we??
'Aesthetic functionalism' says art is what is intended to create aesthetic experiences [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: 'Aesthetic functionalism' maintains that something is an artwork if it is intended to provide the person who contemplates it for its own sake with an aesthetic experience of a significant magnitude on the basis of its aesthetic features.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 2.5)
     A reaction: [Beardsley is cited as having this view] For this you need to know what an aesthetic 'feature' is, and you'd have to indepdently recognise aesthetic experience.
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 2. Ontology of Art
Art exists ideally, purely as experiences in the mind of the perceiver [Collingwood ,by Kemp]
     Full Idea: For Collingwood (and Croce) the work of art is an ideal object; …they are things that exist only in the mind, that is, only when one perceives. …The physical work exists to make this experience available.
     From: report of R.G. Collingwood (The Principles of Art [1938]) by Gary Kemp - Croce and Collingwood 2
     A reaction: This means that the paintings in a gallery cease to be works of art when the gallery is shut, which sounds odd. I suppose 'work of art' is ambiguous, between the experience (right) and the facilitator of the experience (wrong).
If artworks are not physical objects, they are either ideal entities, or collections of phenomena [Wollheim]
     Full Idea: In denying that works of art are physical objects, one theory (the 'ideal') withdraws them altogether from experience, and a second theory ('phenomenal') pins them too it inescapably and at all points.
     From: Richard Wollheim (Art and Its Objects [1968], 21)
     A reaction: I incline towards them being transient ideals, created by human minds. As with so much, we idealise and objectify them as 'works', and abstract their image from the instance(s) we encounter.
The ideal theory says art is an intuition, shaped by a particular process, and presented in public [Wollheim]
     Full Idea: The ideal theory of Croce and Collingwood says art is first an inner intuition or expression of the artist, resulting from a particular process of organisation and unification, which can be externalised in public form.
     From: Richard Wollheim (Art and Its Objects [1968], 22)
     A reaction: [compressed] As stated this doesn't sound very controversial or 'ideal'. I take it the theory is intended to be more platonist than this expression of it suggests. I think the idea that it is an 'expression' of the artist is wrong.
The ideal theory of art neglects both the audience and the medium employed [Wollheim]
     Full Idea: Because the ideal theory makes a work of art inner or mental, the link between the artist and the audience has been severed .....and it also totally ignores the significance of the medium.
     From: Richard Wollheim (Art and Its Objects [1968], 23)
     A reaction: Emily Dickinson had virtually no audience for her poetry. The medium used to perform Bach's 'Art of Fugue' seems unimportant. For paintings of painterly painters paint matters. For some visual art many different media will suffice.
A musical performance has virtually the same features as the piece of music [Wollheim]
     Full Idea: With the usual reservations, there is nothing that can be predicated of a performance of a piece of music that could not also be predicated of that piece of music itself.
     From: Richard Wollheim (Art and Its Objects [1968], 37)
     A reaction: He offers this as evidence that it fits the performance being a token, and music (and all other art) being a type. There are quite a few 'reservations'. Music too difficult to perform. Great music always badly performed.
If paintings could be perfectly duplicated, it would be a multiple art form [Currie ,by Bacharach]
     Full Idea: Currie claims that, in principle, all art forms are multiple. A superxerox machine, duplicating a painting molecule by molecule, would show that paintings are singular only contingently.
     From: report of Gregory Currie (An Ontology of Art [1988]) by Sondra Bacharach - Arthur C. Danto 3
     A reaction: This strikes me as correct. An original painting would then have the same status as the manuscript of a poem, giving it an authority, and being moving by its personal contact with the artist. But worth far less than current original paintings.
The dualistic view says works of art are either abstract objects (types), or physical objects [Lamarque/Olson]
     Full Idea: The dualistic view of the arts holds that works of art come in two fundamentally different kinds: those that are abstract entities, i.e. types, and those that are physical objects (tokens).
     From: Lamargue,P/Olson,SH (Introductions to 'Aesthetics and the Phil of Art' [2004], Pt 2)
     A reaction: Paintings are the main reason for retaining physical objects. Strawson 1974 argues that paintings are only physical because we cannot yet perfectly reproduce them. I agree. Works of art are types, not tokens.
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 3. Art as Form
If beauty needs organisation, then totally simple things can't be beautiful [Wollheim]
     Full Idea: It is said that beauty cannot consist in organisation because, if it did, we would not be able to predicate beauty of totally simple objects.
     From: Richard Wollheim (Art and Its Objects [1968], 59)
     A reaction: [He says this idea originates in Plotinus] I'm struggling to think of an example of something which is 'totally' simple and beautiful. May a patch of colour like the breast of a bullfinch?
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 4. Art as Imitation
If graphic arts only aim at imitation, their works are only trivial ingenious toys [Fry]
     Full Idea: If imitation is the sole purpose of the graphic arts, it is surprising that the works of such arts are ever looked upon as more than curiosities, or ingenious toys, and are ever taken seriously by grown-up people.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.23)
     A reaction: But then you might say that same about fine wines. A mere nice taste is hardly worthy of grown ups, and yet lots of grown ups feeling quite passionately about it. What about Fabergé eggs?
Popular opinion favours realism, yet most people never look closely at anything! [Fry]
     Full Idea: Ordinary people have almost no idea of what things really look like, so that the one standard that popular criticism applies to painting (whether it is like nature or not) is the one which most people are prevented frm applying properly.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.29)
     A reaction: A nice remark, though there is a streak of Bloomsbury artistic snobbery running through Fry. Ordinary people recognise photographic realism, so they can study things closely either in the reality or the picture, should they so choose.
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 5. Art as Expression
The experience of expression and communication are intermingled in art [Croce]
     Full Idea: It is very difficult to perceive the frontier between expression and communication in actual fact, for the two processes usually alternate rapidly and are almost intermingled.
     From: Benedetto Croce (The Essence of Aesthetic [1912]), quoted by Gary Kemp - Croce and Collingwood
     A reaction: [text unsure] I think he is getting at seeing the painting (or whatever) as a physical object, and seeing it as the experience which results from the object. The alternation of the objective and subjective views. Reminds me of Thomas Nagel.
The emotion expressed is non-conscious, but feels oppressive until expression relieves it [Collingwood]
     Full Idea: The emotion expressed is one of whose nature the person feeling it is no longer conscious. As unexpressed, he feels it in a helpless and oppressed way; as expressed, the oppression has vanished. His mind is somehow lightened and eased.
     From: R.G. Collingwood (The Principles of Art [1938], p.110), quoted by Gary Kemp - Croce and Collingwood 1
     A reaction: It sounds like the regular smoking of cigarettes. This is Collingwood answer the doubts I felt about Idea 20419. I would have thought the desire of Picasso was to create another painting, but not to express yet another new oppressive feeling.
Some say art must have verbalisable expression, and others say the opposite! [Wollheim]
     Full Idea: The view that a work of art expresses nothing if it can't be put into other words ...is reduced by the view that a work of art has no value if what it expresses or says can be put into (other) words.
     From: Richard Wollheim (Art and Its Objects [1968], 49)
     A reaction: I prefer the second view. Poetry is what is lost in translation. Good art actually seems to evoke emotions which one virtually never feels in ordinary life. But how could that be possible? What are those emotions doing there?
It is claimed that the expressive properties of artworks are non-physical [Wollheim]
     Full Idea: The argument that works of art have properties that physical objects could not have characteristically concentrates on the expressive properties of works of art.
     From: Richard Wollheim (Art and Its Objects [1968], 10)
     A reaction: Since the idea of an object having non-physical properties strikes me as ridiculous, this gets off to a bad start. If artworks are abstract objects, then all of their properties are non-physical.
The horror expressed in some work of art could equallly be expressed by other means [Kemp]
     Full Idea: The horror or terror of Edvard Much's 'The Scream' could in principle be expressed by different paintings, or even by works of music.
     From: Gary Kemp (Croce and Collingwood [2012], 1)
     A reaction: A very good simple point against the idea that the point of art is expression. It leaves out the very specific nature of each work of art!
Expression can be either necessary for art, or sufficient for art (or even both) [Kemp]
     Full Idea: Seeing art as expression has two components: 1) if something is a work of art, then it is expressive, 2) if something is expressive, then it is a work of art. So expression can be necessary or sufficient for art. (or both, for Croce and Collingwood).
     From: Gary Kemp (Croce and Collingwood [2012], 1)
     A reaction: I take the idea that art 'expresses' the feelings of an artist to be false. Artists are more like actors. Nearly all art has some emotional impact, which is of major importance, but I don't think 'expression' is a very good word for that.
We don't already know what to express, and then seek means of expressing [Kemp]
     Full Idea: One cannot really know, or be conscious of, what it is that one is going to express, and then set about expressing it; indeed if one is genuinely conscious of it then one has already expressed it.
     From: Gary Kemp (Croce and Collingwood [2012], 1)
     A reaction: That pretty conclusively demolishes the idea that art is expression. I picture Schubert composing at the piano: he doesn't feel an emotion, and then hunt for its expression on the keyboard; he seeks out expressive phrases by playing.
Music may be expressive by being 'associated' with other emotional words or events [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: One view explains music's expressiveness as 'associative'. Through being regularly associated with emotionally charged words or events, particular musical ideas become associated with emotions or moods.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 6.4)
     A reaction: This is a more promising theory. I take the feeling in music to be parasitic on other feelings we have, and other triggers that evoke them. I'm particularly struck with story-telling (which Levinson and Robinson also like).
It seems unlikely that sad music expresses a composer's sadness; it takes ages to write [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: The 'expression theory' holds that if music is sad that is because it expresses the composer's sadness, ...but composers take a long time composing sad works, and may even been gleeful at receiving payment for it.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 6.4)
     A reaction: [compressed] Pretty conclusive. I see composing as like acting. Just as you can put on a happy or sad face, so a composer can discover music that feels sad or happy. Three movement sonatas don't fit expression at all.
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 6. Art as Language
Artistic symbols are judged by the fruitfulness of their classifications [Goodman ,by Giovannelli]
     Full Idea: Artistic symbols are to be judged for the classifications they bring about, for how novel and insightful those classifications are, for how they change our world perceptions and relations.
     From: report of Nelson Goodman (Languages of Art (2nd edn) [1968]) by Alessandro Giovannelli - Nelson Goodman (aesthetics) 4
     A reaction: This seems to be an awfully long way from our normal experience of art. I understand 'symbols' in early Flemish art, but not in Mondriaan, or even Rembrandt.
A performance is only an instance of a work if there is not a single error [Goodman]
     Full Idea: The most miserable performance without actual mistakes does count as an instance of a work, …but the most brilliant performance with a single wrong note does not.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Languages of Art (2nd edn) [1968], p.186), quoted by Alessandro Giovannelli - Nelson Goodman (aesthetics)
     A reaction: Mereological essentialism applied to art! You need to be a highly theoretical and technical philosopher (which Goodman was) to maintain such a weird and contrary-usage proposal.
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 7. Art as Institution
For Hegel the importance of art concerns the culture, not the individual [Hegel ,by Eldridge]
     Full Idea: Hegel locates the significance of art in its role in cultural life in general, not in relation to the psychological needs of individuals.
     From: report of Georg W.F.Hegel (Lectures on Aesthetics [1835]) by Richard Eldridge - G.W.F. Hegel (aesthetics) 1
     A reaction: I'm beginning to see that art is a wonderful focus and test case for political attitudes. Roughly, liberalism focuses on individual responses, but more societal views (from right and left) see it in terms of role in the community. Which are you?
A thing is only seen as art in an 'artworld', which has a theory and a history [Danto]
     Full Idea: To see something as art requires something the eye cannot descry - an atmosphere of artistic theory, a knowledge of the history of art: an artworld.
     From: Arthur C. Danto (The Artworld [1964], II)
     A reaction: The editors of the volume call this a revolutionary remark, followed up by Danto and George Dickie with a social and institutional account of art. Danto's key example is Warhol's Brillo pads - art in a gallery, cleaning material in a shop.
We see something as art if there is a world of theory and history to support it [Danto]
     Full Idea: To see something as art requires something the eye cannot decry - an atmosphere of artistic theory, a knowledge of the history of art: an artworld.
     From: Arthur C. Danto (The Artworld [1964], p.580), quoted by Sondra Bacharach - Arthur C. Danto
     A reaction: Sounds to me like a Charlatan's Charter. Hence wicked art dealers create an awestruck atmosphere around some artifact, to bully the gullible into accepting it as art. Meanwhile works of genius are dug up with no context.
An ordinary object can be a work of art, but only if some theory of art supports it [Danto]
     Full Idea: What in the end makes the difference between a Brillo box and a work of art consisting of a Brillo box is a certain theory of art. It is the theory that takes it up into the world of art, and keeps it from collapsing into the real object which it is.
     From: Arthur C. Danto (The Artworld [1964], p.581), quoted by Sondra Bacharach - Arthur C. Danto
     A reaction: It is hard to describe Duchamp's original claim that the urinal was an artwork as a 'theory'. It is a mere rebellious assertion.
A work of art is an artifact created for the artworld [Dickie]
     Full Idea: A work of art is an artifact of a kind created to be presented to an artworld public.
     From: George Dickie (The New Institutional Theory of Art [1983], p.53)
     A reaction: This is the culminating definition in his paper, deriving originally from Danto, and an improvement of his earlier more complex definition. Since this definition amounts to 'this is art if I say it is art', it doesn't seem to reveal much.
The 'institutional' theory says art is just something appropriately placed in the 'artworld' [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: The 'institutional' theory says to be an artwork, an artwork must be appropriately placed within a web of practices, roles and frameworks that comprise an informally organised institution, the artworld.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 2.5)
     A reaction: [He cites George Dickie] This theory seems to entirely developed to cope with the defiant gesture of Marcel Duchamp. Once I am an established artist, I have the authority to label anything I like as a work of art. Silly.
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 8. The Arts / a. Music
Music is too definite to be put into words (not too indefinite!) [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: Mensdelssohn said that what music expresses is not too indefinite to put into words but, on the contrary, it is too definite.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 6.4)
     A reaction: Not sure whether that is true, but it is a lovely remark. It certainly challenges the naive philosophical view that words are the most precise mode of expression.
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 8. The Arts / b. Poetry
Wallace Stevens is the greatest philosophical poet of the twentieth century in English [Critchley]
     Full Idea: Wallace Stevens is the greatest philosophical poet of the twentieth century in the English language - full stop - in my humble opinion.
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 6)
     A reaction: I include this because I tend to agree, and love Stevens. Hear recordings of him reading. I once mentioned Stevens in a conversation with Ted Hughes, and he just shrugged and said Stevens 'wasn't much of a poet'. Wrong.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 1. Artistic Intentions
When viewing art, rather than flowers, we are aware of purpose, and sympathy with its creator [Fry]
     Full Idea: In our reaction to a work of art (rather than a flower) there is the consciousness of purpose, of a peculiar relation of sympathy with the man who made this thing in order to arouse precisely the sensations we experience.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.33)
     A reaction: I think this is entirely right. I like the mention of 'sympathy' as well as 'purpose'.
Intentions either succeed or fail, so external evidence for them is always irrelevant [Wimsatt/Beardsley ,by Davies,S]
     Full Idea: Wimsatt and Beardsley claimed that either the intention succeeded, so one does not need to look outside the work for its meaning, or the intention failed, so external evidence does not help.
     From: report of W Wimsatt/W Beardsley (The Intentional Fallacy [1946]) by Stephen Davies - The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) 5.3
     A reaction: Actually, the external evidence may tell you much more clearly and accurately what the intention was than the work itself does. The best example may be the title of the work, which is presumably outside the work.
The title of a painting can be vital, and the artist decrees who the portrait represents [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: The title as given by the artist is something we might need to know (Brueghel's 'Icarus', for example), ...and if a painting depicts one of two twins, it will be the artist's intention that settles which one it is.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 3.5)
     A reaction: Those two points strike me as conclusively in favour of the importance of an artist's perceived intentions.
We must know what the work is meant to be, to evaluate the artist's achievement [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: Learning that a work is a copy of an earlier work, or is done in the style of some other artist, is relevant to an evaluation of what its creator has achieved.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 3.6)
     A reaction: A simple but powerful point. We evaluate a forgery as an achievement, and the original plate of a great print as the focus of the achievement. We can assess the achievement of a poem in any printed copy. But what about perfect painting replicas?
Intentionalism says either meaning just is intention, or ('moderate') meaning is successful intention [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: 'Actual intentionalism' holds that work's meaning is what its author intended, ...while 'moderate actual intentionalism' allows that the author's intention determines the work's meaning only if that intention is carried through successfully.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 5.3)
     A reaction: [He cites Noel Carroll for the moderate version] D.H. Lawrence, probably with a dose of Freud, said 'trust the work, not the artist' (of Moby Dick, I think). The thought is that authors only half know intentions, and works reveal them.
The meaning is given by the audience's best guess at the author's intentions [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: According to the 'hypothetical intentionalist', the work's meaning is determined by the intentions the audience is best justified in attributing to the author, whether or not these are the ones the author actually had.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 5.4)
     A reaction: [Nehamas, Levinson and Jenefer Robinson are cited] This opens the door for psychiatric interpretations of 'Hamlet', and so on. The experts disagree over the nature of the audience needed to do the job.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 2. Artistic Representation
A drawing only represents Napoleon if the artist intended it to [Wollheim]
     Full Idea: It is necessary, if a drawing is to represent Napoleon, that the draughtsman should intend it to be Napoleon.
     From: Richard Wollheim (Art and Its Objects [1968], 13)
     A reaction: Does a perfect and intended representation of a person also count as a representation of the person's identical twin? The families of both might well order copies.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 3. Emotion in Art
Music is not an expressive art, because it expresses no familiar emotions [Hanslick ,by Wollheim]
     Full Idea: Hanslick concluded from the fact that music doesn't express definite feelings like piety, love, joy, or sadness, that it isn't an art of expression.
     From: report of Eduard Hanslick (The Beautiful in Music [1854], 48) by Richard Wollheim - Art and Its Objects
     A reaction: Whether music is 'expressive' (which it may not be) should not be confused with whether it is emotional, which it clearly is, even in its coolest examples. Hanslick viewed music as a code, not a language.
In the cinema the emotions are weaker, but much clearer than in ordinary life [Fry]
     Full Idea: One notices in the visions of the cinematograph that whatever emotions are aroused by them, though they are likely to be weaker than those of ordinary life, are presented more clearly to the conscious.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.25)
     A reaction: Fry had probably only seen very simple melodramas, but the general idea that artistic emotions are weaker than real life, but much clearer, is quite plausible.
Music isn't just sad because it makes the listener feel sad [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: The 'arousal' theory says music is sad because it moves the hearer to sadness, ...but this seems to get things back to front, because we normally think it is because the music is sad that it moves the listener to sadness.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 6.4)
     A reaction: The objection is right. If Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' always makes me feel sad (because it is so hopelessly optimistic), then that makes the music sad. Is the theory saying that there are no feelings in the music?
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 4. Interpretation of Art
Interpretation is performance for some arts, and critical for all arts [Wollheim]
     Full Idea: Performative interpretation occurs only with certain arts, but critical intepretation pertains to all.
     From: Richard Wollheim (Art and Its Objects [1968], 38)
     A reaction: Fairly obvious, but this is the first point to make about the concept of 'interpretation'. Does the word in fact have two meanings? Or do I perform a painting when I look carefully at it?
An interpretation adds further properties to the generic piece of music [Wollheim]
     Full Idea: Interpretation may be regarded as the production of a token that has properties in excess of those of the type.
     From: Richard Wollheim (Art and Its Objects [1968], 37)
     A reaction: I suppose so. If you play accurately everything that is written in the score, then anything else has to be an addition. If you play less than the score, you aren't quite playing that piece of music.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 5. Objectivism in Art
The judgement of beauty is not cognitive, but relates, via imagination, to pleasurable feelings [Kant]
     Full Idea: In order to understand whether or not something is beautiful, we do not relate the representation by means of understanding to the object for cognition, but relate it by means of the imagination ..to the subject and its feeling of pleasure or displeasure.
     From: Immanuel Kant (Critique of Judgement I: Aesthetic [1790], CUP 1 5:203), quoted by Elizabeth Schellekens - Immanuel Kant (aesthetics) 2.1
     A reaction: This is to distinguish the particular type of judgement which counts as 'aesthetic' - the point being that it is not cognitive - it is not a matter of knowledge and facts, but a cool judgement made about a warm feeling of pleasure. I think.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 6. Value of Art
The purpose of art is to reveal to Spirit its own nature [Hegel ,by Davies,S]
     Full Idea: According to Hegel, the goal of art was to serve as a phase in a process by which Spirit would come to understand its own nature.
     From: report of Georg W.F.Hegel (Lectures on Aesthetics [1835]) by Stephen Davies - The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) 2.7
     A reaction: I try very hard to understand ideas like this. Really really hard. However, since I see little sign of 'Spirit' really understanding its own nature, I'm guessing that the project is not going well.
Art forms a bridge between the sensuous world and the world of pure thought [Hegel]
     Full Idea: Spirit generates out of itself works of fine art as the first reconciling middle term between pure thought and what is merely external, sensuous and transient - between finite natural reality and the infinite freedom of conceptual thinking.
     From: Georg W.F.Hegel (Lectures on Aesthetics [1835], p.8), quoted by Richard Eldridge - G.W.F. Hegel (aesthetics)
     A reaction: This apparently says that there is necessarily an intellectual and conceptual component in art. This means little to me. Does he include portraits? Dutch domestic scenes? Would photography qualify?
Art clarifies the artist's mind and feelings, thus leading to self-knowledge [Collingwood ,by Davies,S]
     Full Idea: Collingwood suggests art should be thought of not as product or artifact but as an act or process of expression through which the artist clarifies her initially vague emotions and states of mind. As such, it is a source of self-knowledge.
     From: report of R.G. Collingwood (The Principles of Art [1938], Ch.6) by Stephen Davies - The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) 8.4
     A reaction: I might believe this of writing novels, but not much else.
Art leads to mental health, and mental clarity [Beardsley,M ,by Carroll,N]
     Full Idea: Beardsley says aesthetic experience relieves tensions and quiet destructive emotions. It also aids us in sorting out the jumble in the flow of consciousness, by virtue of its tendencies toward heightened clarity and coherence.
     From: report of Monroe Beardsley (Aesthetics: problems in the philosophy of criticism [1958]) by Noël Carroll - Monroe Beardsley p.162-3
     A reaction: I find this claim highly implausible. I like art, but I feel neither healthier nor clearer after experiencing it.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 7. Copies of Art
A copy only becomes an 'instance' of an artwork if there is a system of notation [Goodman]
     Full Idea: Paintings and sculptures do not work within a notation; hence, there is no copying of an original that would preserve its originality. A copy of a painting is a copy, not an instance of the original.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Languages of Art (2nd edn) [1968], p.212), quoted by Alessandro Giovannelli - Nelson Goodman (aesthetics) 2
     A reaction: Sounds conclusive, but isn't. Is a poetry manuscript a 'notation' or an original? Why is an etching plate a notation, but painting on canvas is an original? Can I create a painting specifically so that it can be copied (by my students)? Intention matters.
If we could perfectly clone the Mona Lisa, the original would still be special [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: If we could duplicate 'Mona Lisa', we're likely to be concerned to track the original and keep it separate from its clones, even if we judge that the clone isn't inferior to the original when the goal is art appreciation.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 4.3)
     A reaction: But why? Is it just a sentimental attachment to what Leonardo worked on? Does the original manuscript of a work of literature have the same importance? We treasure such things, but not for aesthetic reasons.
Art that is multiply instanced my require at least one instance [Davies,S]
     Full Idea: Some multiply instanced artworks, such as novel and poems, must have at least one instance.
     From: Stephen Davies (The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) [2016], 4.4)
     A reaction: This is a comment on the idea that all artworks, even oil paintings and buildings are potentially multiply instanced (so the work is the type - Wollheim's view, not one of the tokens).
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 8. Context of Art
The traditional view is the knowledge of its genre to essential to appreciating literature [Wollheim]
     Full Idea: From Aristotle onwards it has been a tenet of the traditional rhetoric that the proper understanding of a literary work involves the location of it in the correct genre, that is, as drama, epic or lyric.
     From: Richard Wollheim (Art and Its Objects [1968], 32)
     A reaction: Walton argues this persuasively. I've seen the climax of a Jacobean tragedy ruined by laughter from the audience. Genre dictates appropriate responses, so it is a communal concept.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 9. Style in Art
Style can't be seen directly within a work, but appreciation needs a grasp of style [Wollheim]
     Full Idea: 'Style' would seem to be a concept that cannot be applied to a work solely on the basis of what is represented and yet it is also essential to a proper understanding or appreciation of a work.
     From: Richard Wollheim (Art and Its Objects [1968], 32)
     A reaction: Sounds right. One long held musical note creates an expectation which depends on the presumed style of the piece of music. A single bar from a piece may well not exhibit its characteristic style.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 10. Art and Morality
For pure moralists art must promote right action, and not just be harmless [Fry]
     Full Idea: To the pure moralist, accepting nothing but ethical values, to be justified, the life of the imagination must be shown not only not to hinder but actually to forward right action, otherwise it is not only useless but, by absorbing energies, harmful.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.26)
     A reaction: I think this is the sort of attitude you find in Samuel Johnson. Puritans even reject light music, which seems pleasantly harmless to the rest of us. 'Absorbing energies' doesn't sound much of an objection, and may not be the actual objection.
Interesting art is always organised around ethical demands [Critchley]
     Full Idea: I don't think that art can be unethical. I think that interesting art is always ethical. It is organised around ethical demands.
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 8)
     A reaction: It is a struggle to make this fit instrumental music. Critchley likes punk rock, so he might not see the problem. How to compare Bachian, Mozart, Beethovenian and Debussyian ethics? Not impossible.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 1. Nature of Value / e. Subjective value
All evaluation is from some perspective, and aims at survival [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: All evaluation is made from a definite perspective: that of the preservation of the individual, a community, a race, a state, a church, a faith, a culture.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Will to Power (notebooks) [1888], §259)
     A reaction: There seems to be a tension over the source of values in Nietzsche. Are they the individualistic visions of an übermensch, or do they arise from the collective pressures of one of these social groups? I suspec that his answer tries to combine them.
The ruling drives of our culture all want to be the highest court of our values [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: What is common to all [the artistic, scientific, religious and moral views]: the ruling drives want to be viewed also as the highest courts of value in general, indeed as creative and ruling powers.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Will to Power (notebooks) [1888], §677)
     A reaction: An interesting question is whether those four socially dominant forces could reach a consensus on a core of values. And also which value held by one of the groups is viewed as crazy by the other three.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / a. Valuing life
The sanctity of a human life depends either on being of our species, or on being a person [Singer]
     Full Idea: The doctrine of the sanctity of human life has two separate claims, one that there is a special value in the life of a member of our species, and the other that there is a special value in the life of a person.
     From: Peter Singer (Practical Ethics [1979], 04)
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / c. Love
Marriage is too serious to be permitted for people in love! [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Lovers' vows ought to be publicly declared invalid and marriage denied the pair: and indeed precisely because one ought to take marriage unspeakably more seriously!
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 151)
     A reaction: Sounds like the traditional aristocratic attitude to marriage, so the idea suits Nietzsche. I think that nowadays it is much wiser to be base proposal of marriage on friendship than on love. You are choosing a life-long friend, not someone to adore.
Fear reveals the natures of other people much more clearly than love does [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Fear has furthered the universal knowledge of humanity more than love, for fear wants to discern who the other person is, what he can do and what he wants.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 309)
     A reaction: Nietzsche had it in for love at this stage in his career. This remark strikes me as brilliantly accurate.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 1. Goodness / h. Good as benefit
'Marginal utility' says something is more useful if it is in short supply [Singer]
     Full Idea: The economic principle of marginal utility states that for a given individual a set amount of something is more useful when the individual has little of it than when he has a lot.
     From: Peter Singer (Practical Ethics [1979], 02)
     A reaction: But individuals may very a lot on this one. 'He can't get enough of X'. I may be desperate to buy 10,000 books, but you may consider such a need ridiculous, so who decides?
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 1. Nature of Ethics / b. Defining ethics
Ethics is universalisable - it must involve an impartial and universal view of things [Singer]
     Full Idea: A distinguishng feature of ethics is that ethical judgements are universalisable. Ethics requires us to go beyond our own personal point of view to a standpoint like that of the impartial spectator who takes a universal point of view.
     From: Peter Singer (Practical Ethics [1979], 10)
     A reaction: I'm thinking that ethical agents are more 'situated' than that. Suppose a finance minister stole billions in tax and gave it to a poor country. Good from the universal angle, perhaps, but a shocking betrayal of his own community.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 1. Nature of Ethics / d. Ethical theory
The problems is not justifying ethics, but motivating it. Why should a self seek its good? [Critchley]
     Full Idea: The issue is not so much justification as motivation, that in virtue of which the self can be motivated to act on some conception of the good. ...How does a self bind itself to whatever it determines as its good?
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 2)
     A reaction: That is a bold and interesting idea about the starting point for ethics. It is always a problem for Aristotle, that he can offer no motivation for the quest for virtue. Contractarians start from existing motivations, but that isn't impressive.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / c. Ethical intuitionism
Following an inner voice for morality is irresponsible in a rational agent [Singer]
     Full Idea: When following conscience means doing as one's 'internal voice' prompts one to do, to follow one's conscience it so abdicate one's responsibility as a rational agent.
     From: Peter Singer (Practical Ethics [1979], 09)
     A reaction: Seems dead right. An inner voice is far more likely to be your culture and upbringing than to be an absolute moral truth. It may not be entirely wrong, though, to behave as your culture requires.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / f. Übermensch
The highest man can endure and control the greatest combination of powerful drives [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The highest man has the greatest multiplicity of drives, in the relatively greatest strength that can be endured. Indeed, when the plant 'man' shows himself strongest one finds instincts that conflict powerfully (e.g. in Shakespeare), but are controlled.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Will to Power (notebooks) [1888], §966)
     A reaction: Are there some people, perhaps in mental hospitals, who cannot endure or control such things? Do these people have some drives which the rest of us never experience? Do good people only have good drives?
The highest man directs the values of the highest natures over millenia [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: He who determines values and directs the will of millenia by giving direction to the highest natures is the highest man.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Will to Power (notebooks) [1888], §999)
     A reaction: The second half is the interesting bit. If Ghengis Khan inspires hordes to commit massacres, he certainly creates values, but he hasn't inspired highest natures. So who inspires highest natures? Who are the role models of role models?
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / g. Will to power
As far as possible, everything tries to persevere [Spinoza]
     Full Idea: Each thing, as far as it can by its own power, strives to persevere in its own being. ...[7] The striving by which each thing strives to persevere in its being is nothing but the actual essence of the thing.
     From: Baruch de Spinoza (The Ethics [1675], III Pr 06)
     A reaction: This is covered by his word 'conatus'. Obviously this covers plants as well as sentient beings. Mountains have no power to persevere. Since Spinoza sees this as basic, he is not far from Nietzsche.
The 'will to power' is basically applied to drives and forces, not to people [Nietzsche ,by Richardson]
     Full Idea: 'Will to power' is most basically applied not to people but to 'drives' or 'forces', simpler units which Nietzsche sometimes calls 'points' and 'power quanta'.
     From: report of Friedrich Nietzsche (Works (refs to 8 vol Colli and Montinari) [1885], 1) by John Richardson - Nietzsche's System 1
     A reaction: This strikes as a correct account of Nietzsche, and a hugely important interpretative point. He wasn't saying that all human beings would conquer the world if they could. The point is there are many conflicting and combining wills to power.
23. Ethics / A. Egoism / 1. Ethical Egoism
People do nothing for their real ego, but only for a phantom ego created by other people [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Whatever they say about their 'egotism', people nevertheless do nothing their whole life long for their ego, but instead for the phantom ego that has formed in the heads around them and been communicated to them.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 105)
     A reaction: Nietzsche has a vision of true devotion to the ego as healthy, and so (I would say) does Aristotle, though the two might disagree about the details. I want to live among people who work on themselves, not those who always sacrifice themselves.
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 1. Contractarianism
Why should I do anything for posterity? What has posterity ever done for me? [Singer]
     Full Idea: Most striking is the impact of the contract model on our attitude to future generations. 'Why should I do anything for posterity? What has posterity ever done for me?' would be the view we ought to take.
     From: Peter Singer (Practical Ethics [1979], 03)
     A reaction: I should bury my mobile phone for future archaeologists, because it will be more valuable then than it is now. Singer cites the disposal of nuclear waste as an instance.
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 2. Golden Rule
If you feel to others as they feel to themselves, you must hate a self-hater [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Supposing we felt toward someone else as that person feels about himself, then we would have to hate him if he (like Pascal) found himself hateful.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 063)
     A reaction: And how does the Golden Rulework if the other people feel suicidal (as groups sometimes do)?
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / d. Virtue theory critique
Virtues must be highly personal; if not, it is merely respect for a concept [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: A virtue has to be our invention, our most personal defence and necessity: in any other sense it is merely a danger. What does not condition our life harms it: a virtue merely from a feeling of respect for the concept 'virtue', as Kant desires it, is harm
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Anti-Christ [1889], §11)
     A reaction: Presumably he sees virtue as the cutting edge of stiffling conventional morality. I'm a bit nervous about embracing highly personal virtues, partly because they might isolate me from my community. I ain't no übermensch.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / f. The Mean
The instinct of the herd, the majority, aims for the mean, in the middle [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The instinct of the herd considers the middle and the mean as the highest and most valuable: the place where the majority finds itself.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Will to Power (notebooks) [1888], §280)
     A reaction: The reason, I think, for Nietzsche's hostility to Aristotle. But the doctrine of the mean doesn't just seek the middle. It seeks what is appropriate. The mean for bravery and cowardice is not somewhat timid bravery; it is alarmingly brave, but sensible.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / a. Virtues
Honesty is a new young virtue, and we can promote it, or not [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Among neither the Socratic nor the Christian virtues does honesty appear: it is one of the youngest virtues, still quite immature. ...We can advance it or retard it, as we see fit.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 456)
     A reaction: I associate the virtue of honesty with the cult of sincerity of feelings which arose in the romantic movement.
The cardinal virtues want us to be honest, brave, magnanimous and polite [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Honest towards ourselves and whatever else is our friend; courageous toward the enemy; magnanimous toward the defeated; polite - always. This is how the four cardinal virtues want us to be.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 556)
     A reaction: I take this to be Nietzsche genuinely asserting his four cardinal virtues, rather than being ironic. He certainly asserts politeness as the fourth virtue earlier in the book. Cf a different list in Idea 20382
The four virtues are courage, insight, sympathy, solitude [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: To remain master of one's four virtues: courage, insight, sympathy, solitude.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil [1886], §284)
     A reaction: Compare this with 'Daybreak (Dawn)' 556. Solitude is the surprising addition, defended as the urge to 'cleanliness', when since humanity is 'unclean'.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / d. Courage
Cool courage and feverish bravery have one name, but are two very different virtues [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Courage as cold bravery and impeturbability, and courage as feverish, half-blind bravura - one calls both of these things by the same name! How different are the cold virtues from the warm ones!
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 277)
     A reaction: How few philosophers are capable of making a subtle but accurate observation like this! How many other virtues should be subdivided?
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 1. Deontology
Conflict of rules might be avoided by greater complexity, or by a hierarchy of rules [Singer]
     Full Idea: Those who think ethics is a system of rules can rescue their position by finding more complicated and more specific rules which do not conflict, or by ranking the rules in some hierarchical structure to resolve conflicts.
     From: Peter Singer (Practical Ethics [1979], 01)
     A reaction: The problem is that clear-cut rules seem to produce conflicts. I would have thought that more specific rules would increase that problem. Safety is in generality.
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 2. Duty
See duty as a burden makes it a bit cruel, and it can thus never become a habit [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: To require that duty always be somewhat burdensome - as Kant does - amounts to acquiring that it never become habit and custom: in this requirement there linger a tiny remnant of ascetic cruelty.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 339)
     A reaction: Habit, of course, is the ideal of Aristotelian virtue.
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 1. Existentialism
My helplessness in philosophising reveals my being, and begins its upsurge [Jaspers]
     Full Idea: Philosophising, not knowing, brings me to myself. The helplessness to which philosophising reduces me when I doubt its origin is an expressions of the helplessness of my self-being, and the reality of philosophising is the incipient upsurge of that being.
     From: Karl Jaspers (Philosophy [1932], vol.2)
     A reaction: I like the sound of 'philosophy as a way of life', and loosely aspire to it, but I'm still not sure what it means, other than a good way to pass the time. The idea that it leads to higher modes of being sounds a bit arrogant. But it is a good thing!
The struggle for Existenz is between people who are equals, and are utterly honest [Jaspers]
     Full Idea: The struggle for Existenz has to do with ...with utter candour, with the elimination of all kinds of power and superiority, with the other's self-being as well as with my own.
     From: Karl Jaspers (Philosophy [1932], vol.2)
     A reaction: This is reminiscent of Aristotle's conclusion that democracy is the society which is most conducive to true friendship. I like Jaspers's idea that existential enquiry is a team game.
Once we grasp freedom 'from' things, then freedom 'for' things becomes urgent [Jaspers]
     Full Idea: Once the question of 'freedom from what?' has been answered by shattering all objectivities, the question of 'freedom for what?' becomes all the more urgent.
     From: Karl Jaspers (Philosophy [1932], vol.2)
     A reaction: A quintessential existentialist idea, and its most appealing aspect. Message to all teenagers: don't get bogged down in what you are prevented from doing, but focus on what you can do. The first problem will melt away. (Unless you are in handcuffs....).
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 4. Boredom
Pychopaths may just be bored, because they cannot participate in normal emotional life [Singer]
     Full Idea: Maybe psychopaths are bored because their emotional poverty means that they cannot take interest in, or gain satisfaction from, what for others are the most important things in life: love, family, success in business or professional life, etc.
     From: Peter Singer (Practical Ethics [1979], 10)
     A reaction: [he cites Hervey Cleckley for this] Maybe boredom is a symptom of some human inadequacy, but it might sometimes be a mark of superiority. It drives people to both creation and destruction. Quite a good account of criminal behaviour.
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 6. Authentic Self
People want to lose themselves in movements and history, instead of being individuals [Kierkegaard]
     Full Idea: Everything must attach itself so as to be part of some movement; men are determined to lose themselves in the totality of things, in world-history, fascinated and deceived by a magic witchery; no one wants to be an individual human being.
     From: Søren Kierkegaard (Concluding Unscientific Postscript [1846])
     A reaction: [ref?] I presume 'world-history' refers to the exhilerating ideas of Hegel. Right now [2017] I would say we have far too much of people only wanting to be individuals, with insufficient attention to our social nature.
Most people think they are already complete, but we can cultivate ourselves [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: We are free to handle and cultivate our drives like a gardener ...but how many people know we are free to do this? Don't most people believe in themselves as completed, full grown up facts?
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 560)
     A reaction: I see Nietzsche as an existentialist philosopher. He is much more than that, but this quotation endorses what I take to be the central idea of existentialism.
Mundane existence is general, falling under universals, but Existens is unique to individuals [Jaspers]
     Full Idea: Mundane being, the being we know, is general because it is generally valid for everyone. ...Existenz is never general, and thus not a case that might be subsumed as particular under a universal.
     From: Karl Jaspers (Philosophy [1932], vol.2)
     A reaction: I'm trying to visualise a mode of existence which would fulfil only me, answering to my unique nature, but it looks like a vain delusion. I may be a one-off combination, but I see all of my ingredients in various other people.
We want the correct grasp on being that is neither solipsism nor absorption in the crowd [Jaspers]
     Full Idea: We want our philosophising to illuminate the free, original, communicative grasp on being that will let us meet the constant threat of solipsism or universalism in existence.
     From: Karl Jaspers (Philosophy [1932], vol.2)
     A reaction: This sounds like the political wing of existentialism: the aim to get the right relationship between citizens - not too withdrawn, and not swallowed in the crowd. Liberal democracy, I should think.
'Existenz' is the potential being, which I could have, and ought to have [Jaspers]
     Full Idea: There is the being which in the phenomenality of existence is not but can be, ought to be, and therefore decides in time whether it is in eternity. This being is myself as 'Existenz'.
     From: Karl Jaspers (Philosophy [1932], vol.2)
     A reaction: This is quintessentially existentialist, in its claim that my mode of being could be quite other than it is. Personally I aim to fulfil the being I've got. Play the cards you have been dealt.
Heidegger says must either choose an inauthentic hero, or choose yourself as hero [Heidegger ,by Critchley]
     Full Idea: Heidegger says you must choose your hero; either you choose 'das Man', the inauthentic life, or you choose yourself - the point being that you have to choose yourself as your hero in order to be authentic.
     From: report of Martin Heidegger (Being and Time [1927]) by Simon Critchley - Impossible Objects: interviews 5
     A reaction: If Nietzsche's 'Ecce Homo' is the model for choosing yourself as hero, I am not too sure about this idea. Needing a hero seems awfully German and romantic. Ein Heldenleben. Be your own anit-hero (like a standup comedian)?
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 7. Existential Action
Every decision I make moves towards or away from fulfilled Existenz [Jaspers]
     Full Idea: My Existenz, as a possibility, takes a step toward being or away from being, toward nothingness, in every choice or decision I make.
     From: Karl Jaspers (Philosophy [1932], vol.2)
     A reaction: The existential idea of action involves what you are, as well as what you do. There seems to be a paradox. My being is plastic, and can change enormously, so I should take responsibility for the change. But who is in charge of the changes?
24. Applied Ethics / B. Moral Rights / 3. Animal Rights
Large mature animals are more rational than babies. But all that really matters is - can they suffer? [Bentham]
     Full Idea: A full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational animal than an infant of a day, or even a month, old. But suppose they be otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?
     From: Jeremy Bentham (Intro to Principles of Morals and Legislation [1789], XVIII 1 n), quoted by Peter Singer - Practical Ethics 03
     A reaction: This is certainly an inspiring, and even shocking question, which never seems to have been so directly asked before in the entire history of European thought. Awesome.
Killing a chimp is worse than killing a human too defective to be a person [Singer]
     Full Idea: It seems that killing a chimpanzee is worse than the killing of a gravely defective human who is not a person. ...[p.103] the effects on relatives of the defective human will sometimes constitute additional indirect reasons against killing the human.
     From: Peter Singer (Practical Ethics [1979], 05)
     A reaction: Singer's most notorious idea. Perhaps we should all carry cards (perhaps combined with donor cards) saying how many people will care if we die.
24. Applied Ethics / C. Death Issues / 1. Death
Most dying people have probably lost more important things than what they are about to lose [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The act of dying is not as significant as the universal awe of it would have us believe, and the dying person has probably lost more important things in life than he is now about to lose.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 349)
     A reaction: He says this is a thought about death which we tend to repress. It would depend on the life, I should think, but it is probably right in very many cases.
24. Applied Ethics / C. Death Issues / 3. Abortion
Why should a potential person have the rights of an actual person? [Singer]
     Full Idea: A prince may be a potential king, but he does not have the rights of a king. Why should a potential person have the rights of a person?
     From: Peter Singer (Practical Ethics [1979], 06)
     A reaction: But the prince is probably accorded special rights, merely on the grounds that he is the potential king. An unborn potential king is always considered as special.
25. Society / A. State of Nature / 1. A People / a. Human distinctiveness
Humans dominate because, unlike other animals, they have a synthesis of conflicting drives [Richardson]
     Full Idea: In contrast to the other animals, man has cultivated an abundance of contrary drives and impulses within himself: thanks to this synthesis, he is master of the earth.
     From: John Richardson (Nietzsche's System [2002], §966)
     A reaction: If this is true, it presents the fundamental challenge of politicial philosophy - to visual a successful social system for a creature which does not have a clear and focused nature. For Nietzsche, this 'synthesis' continually evolves.
25. Society / A. State of Nature / 1. A People / c. A unified people
Hegel's Absolute Spirit is the union of human rational activity at a moment, and whatever that sustains [Hegel ,by Eldridge]
     Full Idea: We may take Hegel's Absolute Spirit to be the union of collective, human rational activity at a historical moment with its proper object, the forms of social and individual life that the rational activity is devoted to understanding and sustaining.
     From: report of Georg W.F.Hegel (works [1812]) by Richard Eldridge - G.W.F. Hegel (aesthetics) 1
     A reaction: From this formulation it sounds as if the whole human race might have momentary union, but presumably it is more local 'peoples' that can exhibit this.
25. Society / B. The State / 1. Purpose of a State
Individual development is more important than the states, but a community is necessary [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: All states and communities are something lower than the individual, but necessary kinds for his higher development.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Works (refs to 8 vol Colli and Montinari) [1885], 10/7[98]), quoted by John Richardson - Nietzsche's System 2.4 n104
     A reaction: This indicates why Nietzsche should not really be taken as a political thinker, though I would say there is a sort of communitarianism implied in this, just as for Aristotle virtue is supreme, which needs social expression.
25. Society / B. The State / 4. Citizenship
Nietzsche thinks we should joing a society, in order to criticise, heal and renew it [Nietzsche ,by Richardson]
     Full Idea: Nietzsche thinks the best way of both joining and opposing a society is to find where it's sick, to be its merciless critic and exposer, and to help heal and renew it.
     From: report of Friedrich Nietzsche (Works (refs to 8 vol Colli and Montinari) [1885]) by John Richardson - Nietzsche's System 3.3
     A reaction: This sounds like the great Victorian sages, such as Ruskin and Arnold. Christopher Hitchens was a nice recent example. Maybe these have been the finest British citizens?
25. Society / B. The State / 5. Leaders / d. Elites
A healthy aristocracy has no qualms about using multitudes of men as instruments [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: A good and healthy aristocracy ...accepts with a good conscience the sacrifice of innumerable men who for its sake have to be suppressed and reduced to imperfect men, to slaves and instruments.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil [1886], §258)
     A reaction: Something similar might be said of a democracy - that a slavelike workforce is needed to create the great universal goods we all want and need. Do the aristocrats want sacrifices for great art, or for wild parties and fox hunting?
25. Society / B. The State / 6. Government / a. Government
People govern for the pleasure of it, or just to avoid being governed [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Some govern out of pleasure in governing, others in order not to be governed - to the latter, governing is merely the lesser of two evils.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 181)
     A reaction: Our current society is full of self-employed people whose major motivation is to avoid being employees.
25. Society / B. The State / 7. Changing the State / c. Revolution
The French Revolution gave trusting Europe the false delusion of instant recovery [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The 'Great Revolution' [in France] was nothing more than a pathetic and bloody quackery, which understood how, through sudden crises, to supply a trusting Europe with the sudden hope of recovery.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 534)
     A reaction: Whenever a new leader comes into power there is the same honeymoon period, where dreams of salvation have a moment in the sun.
You can't condemn violent revolution without assessing the evils it prevents [Singer]
     Full Idea: It would be one-sided to say that violent revolution is always absolutely wrong, without taking account of the evils that the revolutionaries are trying to stop.
     From: Peter Singer (Practical Ethics [1979], 09)
     A reaction: This seems like common sense, but there are plenty of right-wing authoritarians who would claim that stable authority has priority over all social wrongs. I think that view is mistaken. But the problem is, how to know the future?
25. Society / C. Political Doctrines / 3. Anarchism
The state, law, bureaucracy and capital are limitations on life, so I prefer federalist anarchism [Critchley]
     Full Idea: I begin with the ontological premise that the state is a limitation on human existence. I am against the state, law, bureaucracy, and capital. I seen anarchism as the only desirable way of organising, politically. ...Its political form is federalist.
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 3)
     A reaction: Hm. Some sympathy, but caution. All systems, even federalist anarchism are limitations on our lives, so which limitations do we prefer. The law aspires to a calm egalitarian neutrality, which seems promising to me.
Anarchism used to be libertarian (especially for sexuality), but now concerns responsibility [Critchley]
     Full Idea: Anarchism in the 1960s was libertarian and organised around issues of sexual liberation. That moment has passed. People are and should be organising around responsibility.
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 3)
     A reaction: So there are two types of anarchism, focused on freedom or on responsibility. An organisation like Greenpeace might represent the latter.
25. Society / C. Political Doctrines / 4. Conservatism
Belief that humans are wicked leads to authoritarian politics [Critchley]
     Full Idea: If you think human beings are wicked, you turn to an authoritarian conception of politics, the Hobbesian-Machiavellian-Straussian lie.
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 3)
     A reaction: Right-wingers also tend to believe in free will, so they can blame and punish. Good people are more inspired by a great leader than bad people are? (Later, Critchley says authoritarians usually believe in original sin).
25. Society / C. Political Doctrines / 5. Democracy / a. Nature of democracy
If 49% of the population can be wrong, so can 51% [Singer]
     Full Idea: The case for majority rule should not be overstated. No sensible democrat would claim that the majority is always right. If 49% of the population can be wrong, so can 51%.
     From: Peter Singer (Practical Ethics [1979], 09)
     A reaction: Well said! We can't possibly put a figure on when the majority become right. In the recent Brexit referendum hardly anyone seemed to understand the issues very well, so none of us have a clue about who was right.
25. Society / C. Political Doctrines / 9. Communism
Levinas says Marxism is the replacement of individualist ethics, by solidarity and sociality [Critchley]
     Full Idea: For Levinas, Marxism is the absorption of the ethical in the socioeconomic, and so it is the disappearance of the face-to-face relation and the privileging of relations of solidarity and anonymous sociality, which he calls 'socialism'.
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 1)
     A reaction: Startling, if you are not used to this sort of thing. If you are in trouble, I should help you, not because you are you, or a human being, but because you are a member of my group? So what about the Good Samaritan? Or solidarity with humanity? Animals?
25. Society / D. Social Rights / 1. Legal Rights / a. Basis of rights
If a right entails having the relevant desire, many creatures might have no right to life [Singer]
     Full Idea: If to have a right one must have the ability to desire that to which one has a right, then to have a right to life one must be able to desire one's own continued existence.
     From: Peter Singer (Practical Ethics [1979], 07)
     A reaction: The unborn, small infants, and persons in comas may well lack the relevant desire (at least consciously - arguably even a plant has a non-conscious 'desire' or drive for life). The idea that a right entails a conscious desire seems daft.
25. Society / D. Social Rights / 3. Social Equality / a. Grounds of equality
Equality of interests is a minimal principle, not implying equal treatment [Singer]
     Full Idea: Equal consideration of interests is a minimal principle of equality in the sense that it does not dictate equal treatment.
     From: Peter Singer (Practical Ethics [1979], 02)
     A reaction: Do those convicted of serious crime retain equal interests? Should a huge group of people sacrifice all of their interests, because of the powerful interests of one person?
25. Society / D. Social Rights / 3. Social Equality / d. Economic equality
Equality of opportunity unfairly rewards those lucky enough to have great ability [Singer]
     Full Idea: Equality of opportunity is not an attractive ideal. It rewards the lucky, who inherit those abilities that allow them to pursue interesting and lucrative careers.
     From: Peter Singer (Practical Ethics [1979], 02)
     A reaction: He makes it sound like cheating. Singer has a highly individualistic view, but society as a whole needs the development of talent, wherever it can be found.
25. Society / E. State Functions / 5. Education / a. Education principles
Teach youth to respect people who differ with them, not people who agree with them [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The surest way to ruin a youth is by teaching him to respect those who think like him more highly than those who think differently.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 297)
     A reaction: On the whole I prefer to read the philosophers who seem to be on my side, because I am trying to strengthen my explanation of the world, and opponents aren't much help. I do read opponents, if they explicitly challenge what I defend.
25. Society / E. State Functions / 5. Education / d. History study
History does not concern what really happened, but supposed events, which have all the influence [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The writer of history deals not with what really happened but merely with supposed events, for only the latter have had an effect. ...All historians speak of things that have never existed except in imagination.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 307)
     A reaction: This seems blatantly true, and is most obvious in the case of forged documents which have been hugely influential. Erroneous conspiracy theories are another example. (Note: only scorn conspiracy theories if you think conspiracies never happen!).
25. Society / E. State Functions / 6. War
Modern wars arise from the study of history [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The great wars of our day are the effects of the study of history.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 180)
     A reaction: The Prussians reacted to Napoleon. The Nazis reacted to Versailles. But now the study of history reveals to us dreadful wars based on simplistic accounts of history. Be wise about history, not ignorant of it.
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 1. Basis of Nature
Nature has three aspects: granularity, indeterminacy, and relations [Rovelli]
     Full Idea: I think that quantum mechanics has revealed three aspects of the nature of things: granularity, indeterminacy, and the relational structure of the world.
     From: Carlo Rovelli (Reality is Not What it Seems [2014], 04)
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 2. The Unlimited
The basic ideas of fields and particles are merged in quantum mechanics [Rovelli]
     Full Idea: The notions of fields and particles, separated by Faraday and Maxwell, end up merging in quantum mechanics.
     From: Carlo Rovelli (Reality is Not What it Seems [2014], 04)
     A reaction: This sounds to me just like Anaximander's 'apeiron' - the unlimited [Rovelli agrees! p.168]. Anaximander predicted the wall which enquiry would hit, but we now have more detail.
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 3. Space / c. Substantival space
The world is just particles plus fields; space is the gravitational field [Rovelli]
     Full Idea: The world is made up of particles + fields, and nothing else; there is no need to add space as an extra ingredient. Newton's space is the gravitational field.
     From: Carlo Rovelli (Reality is Not What it Seems [2014], 03)
     A reaction: I get the impression that particles are just bumps or waves in the fields [yes! Rovelli p.110], which would mean there are fields and nothing else. And no one seems to know what a field is.
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 4. Time / i. Time and change
Only heat distinguishes past from future [Rovelli]
     Full Idea: It is always heat and only heat that distinguishes the past from the future.
     From: Carlo Rovelli (Reality is Not What it Seems [2014], 12)
     A reaction: I can remember the past but not the future - so can that fact be reduced to facts about heat?
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 1. Causation / g. Eliminating causation
A mind that could see cause and effect as a continuum would deny cause and effect [Richardson]
     Full Idea: An intellect that could see cause and effect as a continuum and a flux, and not, as we do, in terms of an arbitrary division and dismemberment, would repudiate the concept of cause and effect.
     From: John Richardson (Nietzsche's System [2002], §112)
     A reaction: Maybe we do see it as a continuum? The racket swings and the ball is propelled, but the contact is a unity, not two separate events.
27. Natural Reality / A. Physics / 1. Matter / j. Electrons
Electrons only exist when they interact, and their being is their combination of quantum leaps [Rovelli]
     Full Idea: Electrons don't always exist. They exist when they interact. They materialize when they collide with something. The quantum leap from one orbit to another constitutes their way of being real. An electron is a combination of leaps between interactions.
     From: Carlo Rovelli (Reality is Not What it Seems [2014], 04)
     A reaction: If a philosopher with an Aristotelian interest in the nature of matter wants to grasp the modern view, the electron looks like the thing to focus on. You can feel Rovelli battling here to find formulations that might satisfy a philosopher.
Electrons are not waves, because their collisions are at a point, and not spread out [Rovelli]
     Full Idea: Schrödinger's wave is a bad image for an electron, because when a particle collides with something else, it is always at a point: it is never spread out in space like a wave.
     From: Carlo Rovelli (Reality is Not What it Seems [2014], 04 note)
     A reaction: And yet there is the diffusion in the two-slit experiment, which Thomas Young discovered for light. I must take Rovelli's word for this.
27. Natural Reality / A. Physics / 1. Matter / k. Fields
Because it is quantised, a field behaves like a set of packets of energy [Rovelli]
     Full Idea: Since the energy of the electromagnetic field can take on only certain values, the field behaves like a set of packets of energy.
     From: Carlo Rovelli (Reality is Not What it Seems [2014], 04)
There are about fifteen particles fields, plus a few force fields [Rovelli]
     Full Idea: There are about fifteen fields, whose quanta are elementary particles (electrons, quarks, muons, neutrinos, Higgs, and little else), plus a few fields similar to the electromagnetic one, which describe forces at a nuclear scale, with quanta like photons.
     From: Carlo Rovelli (Reality is Not What it Seems [2014], 04)
     A reaction: According to Rovelli, this sentence describes the essence of physical reality.
The world consists of quantum fields, with elementary events happening in spacetime [Rovelli]
     Full Idea: The world is not made up of fields and particles, but of a single type of entity: the quantum field. There are no longer particles which move in space with the passage of time, but quantum fields whose elementary events happen in spacetime.
     From: Carlo Rovelli (Reality is Not What it Seems [2014], 04)
     A reaction: If you are not a scientist, there is (I find) a strong tendency to read and digest stuff like this, and then forget it the next day, because it so far from our experience. Folk like me have to develop two parallel views of the nature of reality.
27. Natural Reality / A. Physics / 1. Matter / l. Quantum theory
Quantum Theory describes events and possible interactions - not how things are [Rovelli]
     Full Idea: Quantum Theory does not describe things as they are: it describes how things occur and interact with each other. It doesn't describe where there is a particle but how it shows itself to others. The world of existence is reduced to possible interactions.
     From: Carlo Rovelli (Reality is Not What it Seems [2014], 04)
     A reaction: Fans of 'process philosophy' should like this, though he is not denying that there may be facts about how things are - it is just that this is not mentioned in the theory. There is not much point in philosophers yearning to know the reality.
27. Natural Reality / A. Physics / 2. Movement
We only see points in motion, and thereby infer movement [Rescher]
     Full Idea: We perceive motion only as isolated points, and then infer it without actually seeing it.
     From: Nicholas Rescher (Scepticism [1980], §112)
     A reaction: Note how writing suddenly becomes readable as you slow down on entering a railway station. Is that points suddenly becoming unified? This is an empiricist endorsement of Russell's 'at-at' account of motion.
27. Natural Reality / D. Cosmology / 3. Infinite in Nature
There are probably no infinities, and 'infinite' names what we do not yet know [Rovelli]
     Full Idea: 'Infinite', ultimately, is the name that we give to what we do not yet know. Nature appears to be telling us that there is nothing truly infinite.
     From: Carlo Rovelli (Reality is Not What it Seems [2014], 11)
28. God / B. Proving God / 2. Fideism
'I believe because it is absurd' - but how about 'I believe because I am absurd' [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Many people have achieved the humility that says: 'I believe because it is absurd', and have sacrificed their reason for it. But no one, as far as I know, has achieved the humility, which is only one step further, of 'I believe because I am absurd'.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 417)
     A reaction: Nietzsche gives the Latin: 'credo quia absurdum est' (Tertullian), and 'credo quia absurdus sum'. It may look like an insulting remark from Nietzsche, but it is actually in tune with the spirit of the original.
28. God / D. Proofs of Evidence / 4. Religious Experience
God cannot be demonstrated objectively, because God is a subject, only existing inwardly [Kierkegaard]
     Full Idea: Choosing the objective way enters upon the entire approximation-process by which it is proposed to bring God to light objectively. But this is in all eternity impossible, because God is a subject, and therefore exist only for subjectivity in inwardness.
     From: Søren Kierkegaard (Concluding Unscientific Postscript [1846])
     A reaction: [original ref needed] This seems to have something like Wittgenstein's problem with a private language - that with no external peer-review it is unclear what the commitment is.
29. Religion / C. Monotheistic Religion / 3. Christianity / a. Christianity
Christianity hoped for a short cut to perfection, that skipped the hard labour of morality [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: You can say what you like: Christianity wanted to liberate humanity from the burden of the demands of morality by pointing out a shorter way to perfection, or so it believed.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 059)
     A reaction: This conjures up Graham Greene's Catholic heroes, who wallow in sin, but hope for salvation at the last moment.
Christianity was successful because of its heathen rituals [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Not what is Christian in it, rather the universal heathenism of its rituals is the reason for the propogation of this world religion.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 070)
     A reaction: I'm afraid I think this is right. I grew up bewildered by the lack of content in the rituals of church services. Even austere protestants manage to sing and recite. Maybe philosophies should do this - wanted: new Cartesian and Kantian rituals!
29. Religion / E. Immortality / 2. Soul
The easy and graceful aspects of a person are called 'soul', and inner awkwardness is called 'soulless' [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The sum of inner movements that are easy for a person and that he consequently performs happily and with grace is called his 'soul'; - if inner movements obviously cause him difficulty and effort, he is considered soulless.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 311)
     A reaction: 'Soulless' is usually applied to people deficient in some sort of empathic feeling, or with an inability to recognise grandeur. It seems to imply that people who experience inner torture are soulless, but romantics see them as very soulful.