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Ideas of Joseph Joubert, by Text

[French, 1754 - 1824, Student of philosophy, friend of Diderot, revolutionary JP, Inspector-General of Education.]

1800 Notebooks
1797 p.27 Seek wisdom rather than truth; it is easier
     Full Idea: To seek wisdom rather than truth. It is more within our grasp.
     From: Joseph Joubert (Notebooks [1800], 1797)
     A reaction: A nice challenge to the traditional goal of philosophy. The idea that we should 'seek truth' only seems to have emerged during the Reformation. The Greeks may well never have dreamed of such a thing.
1797 p.30 The imagination has made more discoveries than the eye
     Full Idea: The imagination has made more discoveries than the eye.
     From: Joseph Joubert (Notebooks [1800], 1797)
     A reaction: As a fan of the imagination, I love this one. I suspect that imagination, which was marginalised by Descartes, is actually the single most important aspect of thought (in slugs as well as humans). Abstraction requires imagination.
1798 p.43 We must think with our entire body and soul
     Full Idea: Everything we think must be thought with our entire being, body and soul.
     From: Joseph Joubert (Notebooks [1800], 1798)
     A reaction: Not just that thinking must be a whole-hearted activity, but that the very contents of our thinking will be better if it arises out of being a physical creature, and not just a disembodied reasoner. Maybe the bowels are not needed to analyse set theory.
1799 p.51 He gives his body up to pleasure, but not his soul
     Full Idea: He gives his body up to pleasure, but not his soul.
     From: Joseph Joubert (Notebooks [1800], 1799)
     A reaction: A rather crucial distinction in the world of hedonism. There seems something sincere about someone who pursues pleasure body and soul, and something fractured about the pursuit of pleasure without real commitment. The split seems possible.
1800 p.56 Virtue is hard if we are scorned; we need support
     Full Idea: It would be difficult to be scorned and to live virtuously. We have need of support.
     From: Joseph Joubert (Notebooks [1800], 1800)
     A reaction: He seems to have hit on what I take to be one of the keys to Aristotle: that virtue is a social matter, requiring both upbringing and a healthy culture. But we can help to create that culture, as well as benefiting from it.
1800 p.60 The truths of reason instruct, but they do not illuminate
     Full Idea: There are truths that instruct, perhaps, but they do not illuminate. In this class are all the truths of reasoning.
     From: Joseph Joubert (Notebooks [1800], 1800)
     A reaction: A rather romantic view, which strikes me as false. An inspiring truth can suddenly collapse when you see why it must be false. Equally a line of reasoning can lead to a truth which need becomes an illumination.
1800 p.60 Truth consists of having the same idea about something that God has
     Full Idea: Truth consists of having the same idea about something that God has.
     From: Joseph Joubert (Notebooks [1800], 1800)
     A reaction: Presumably sceptics about the existence of objective truth must also be sceptical about the possibility of such a God. I think Joubert is close to the nature of truth here. It is a remote and barely imaginable ideal.
1800 p.67 Where does the bird's idea of a nest come from?
     Full Idea: The idea of the nest in the bird's mind, where does it come from?
     From: Joseph Joubert (Notebooks [1800], 1800)
     A reaction: I think this is a very striking example in support of innate ideas. Most animal behaviour can be explained as responses to stimuli, but the bird seems to hold a model in its mind while it collects its materials.
1800 p.68 To know is to see inside oneself
     Full Idea: To know: it is to see inside oneself.
     From: Joseph Joubert (Notebooks [1800], 1800)
     A reaction: Extreme internalism about justification! Personally I am becoming convinced that 'know' (unlike 'believe' and 'true') is an entirely social concept. Fools spend a lot of time instrospecting; wise people ask around, and check in books.
1801 p.72 We cannot speak against Christianity without anger, or speak for it without love
     Full Idea: We cannot speak against Christianity without anger, or speak for it without love.
     From: Joseph Joubert (Notebooks [1800], 1801)
     A reaction: This seems to be rather true at the present time, when a wave of anti-religious books is sweeping through our culture. Presumably this remark used to be true of ancient paganism, but it died away. Christianity, though, is very personal.
1801 p.74 A thought is as real as a cannon ball
     Full Idea: A thought is a thing as real as a cannon ball.
     From: Joseph Joubert (Notebooks [1800], 1801)
     A reaction: Nice. The realisation of a thought can strike someone as if they have been assaulted, and hearing some remarks can be as bad as being stabbed. That is quite apart from political consequences. Joubert is good on the physicality of thinking.
1802 p.78 What will you think of pleasures when you no longer enjoy them?
     Full Idea: What will you think of pleasures when you no longer enjoy them?
     From: Joseph Joubert (Notebooks [1800], 1802)
     A reaction: A lovely test question for aspiring young hedonists! It doesn't follow at all that we will despise past pleasures. The judgement may be utilitarian - that we regret the pleasures that harmed others, but love the harmless ones. Shame is social.
1808 p.130 We can't exactly conceive virtue without the idea of God
     Full Idea: If we exclude the idea of God, it is impossible to have an exact idea of virtue.
     From: Joseph Joubert (Notebooks [1800], 1808)
     A reaction: I suspect that an 'exact' idea is impossible even with an idea of God. This is an interesting defence of the importance of God in moral thinking, but it only requires the concept of a supreme being, and not belief.
1809 p.132 In raising a child we must think of his old age
     Full Idea: In raising a child we must think of his old age.
     From: Joseph Joubert (Notebooks [1800], 1809)
     A reaction: Very nice, and Aristotle would approve. If educators think much about the future, it rarely extends before the child's first job. We should be preparing good grand-parents, as well as parents and employees. Educate for retirement!
1814 p.143 The love of certainty holds us back in metaphysics
     Full Idea: What stops or holds us back in metaphysics is a love of certainty.
     From: Joseph Joubert (Notebooks [1800], 1814)
     A reaction: This is a prominent truth from the age of Descartes, but may have diminished in the twenty-first century. The very best metaphysicians (e.g. Aristotle and Lewis) always end in a trail of dots when things become unsure.