Our own generation enjoys the legacy bequeathed to it by that which preceded it. We frequently know more, not because we have moved ahead by our own natural ability, but because we are supported by the [mental] strength of others, and possess riches that we have inherited from our forefathers.

Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to [puny] dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature. I readily agree with the foregoing.

Teachers of the arts, even in their Introductions, explain the basic elements of the art and many truths of the science equally as well as, and perhaps even better than do the ancients. Who is content even with what Aristotle gives in his [book] On Interpretation? Who does not add points obtained from other sources? All are gathering together everything [they can] that pertains to the whole art, and explaining it in terms that may be easily understood. They, so to speak, dress the message of the authors in modern style, which becomes in a way even more splendescent when it is more brilliantly adorned with the jewels of antiquity.

Accordingly the words of the authors should not be lost or forgotten, especially those which give [their] full opinions, and have wide applicability. Such words preserve scientific knowledge in its entirety, and contain tremendous hidden as well as apparent power.

Many words, however, when torn from their context, make little or no sense to one who hears them. Such is the case with most of the examples in the Analytics, where letters stand for terms. Although these examples help explain the doctrine [contained in the Analytics], they wilt when they are transplanted.

The Metalogicon of John of Salisbury 1159  P. 167-168  Translated by Daniel D. McGarry 1955

Petrarch 1304-1374

Doth any maiden seek the glorious fame
Of chastity, of strength, of courtesy?
Gaze in the eyes of that sweet enemy
Whom all the world doth as my lady name!
How honor grows  and pure devotion’s flame,
How truth is joined with graceful dignity,
There thou mayst learn and what the path may be
To that high heaven which doth her spirit claim;
There learn that speech beyond all poet’s skill,
And sacred silence, and those holy ways
Unutterable, untold by human heart.
But the infinite beauty that all eyes doth fill,
This none can learn! because its lovely rays
Are given by God’s pure grace, and not by art.
Francesco Petrarca00.jpg

Astrological Predictions
By François Rabelais 1494 – 1553

This year there will be so many eclipses of the sun and moon that I fear (not unjustly) our pockets will suffer inanition, be full empty, and our feeling at a loss. Saturn will be retrograde, Venus direct. Mercury as unfixed as quicksilver. And a pack of planets won’t go as you would have them. For this reason the crabs will go sidelong, and the rope makers backward ; the little stools will get upon the benches, and the spits on the racks, and the bands on the hats; fleas will be generally black; bacon will run away from peas in Lent; there won’t be a bean left in a twelfth cake, nor an ace in a flush ; the dice won’t run as you wish, though you cog them, and the chance that you desire will seldom come; brutes shall speak in several places; Shrovetide will have its day; one part of the world will disguise itself to gull and chouse the other, and run about the streets like a parcel of addlepated animals and mad devils ; such hurlyburly was never seen since the devil was a little boy; and there will be above seven and twenty irregular verbs made this year, if Priscian don’t hold them in. If God don’t help us, we shall have our hands and hearts full.

This year the stone-blind shall see but very little; the deaf shall hear but scurvily ; the dumb shan’t speak very plain ; the rich shall be somewhat in a better case than the poor, and the healthy than the sick. Whole flocks, herds, and droves of sheep, swine, and oxen, cocks and hens, ducks and drakes, geese and ganders, shall go to pot; but the mortality will not be altogether so great among apes, monkeys, baboons, and dromedaries. As for old age, ’twill be incurable this year, because of the years past. Those who are sick of the pleurisy will feel a plaguy stitch in their sides; catarrhs this year shall distill from the brain on the lower parts; sore eyes will by no means help the sight; ears shall be at least as scarce and short in Gascony, and among knights of the post, as ever; and a most horrid and dreadful, virulent, malignant, catching, perverse, and odious malady shall be almost epidemical, insomuch that many shall run mad upon it, not knowing what nails to drive to keep the wolf from the door, very often plotting, contriving, cudgeling, and puzzling their weak, shallow brains, and syllogizing and prying up and down for the philosopher’s stone, though they only get Midas’ lugs by the bargain. I quake for very fear when I think on’t; for, I assure you, few will escape this disease, which Averroes calls lack of money; and by consequence of the last year’s comet, and Saturn’s retrogradation, there will be a horrid clutter between the cats and the rats, hounds and hares, hawks and ducks, and eke between the monks and the eggs. I find by the calculations of Albumazar in his book of the great conjunction, and elsewhere, that this will be a plentiful year of all manner of good things to those who have enough; but your hops of Picardy will go near to fare the worse for the cold.

As for oats, they’ll be a great help to horses. I dare say, there won’t be much more bacon than swine. Pisces having the ascendant, ’twill be a mighty year for mussels, cockles, and periwinkles. Mercury somewhat threatens our parsley beds, yet parsley will be to be had for money. Hemp will grow faster than the children of this age, and some will find there’s but too much on’t. There will be very few Jonchretiens but choke pears in abundance. As for corn, wine, fruit, and herbs, there never was such plenty as will be now, if poor folks may have their wish.


The Vanity of Arts and Sciences by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, 1486-1535, Knight, Doctor of both Laws, Judge of the Prerogative Court and Counsellor to Charles the Fifth, Emperour of Germany Published in London 1676

Ecclesiastes: Vanity of Vanities, all is Vanity

To The Reader
Studious reader
Wilt thou not look upon this Labour of mine to be a most bold and almost Herculean attempt, to wage War against the Giant-like Opposition of all the Arts and Sciences? And thus to challenge the stoutest Hunters of Nature? Doubters will knit their enraged brows upon me: the Authority of Masters, the endeavours of the Batchelors of Art, the heat of the Schoolmen, the sedition of the Mechanicks, will be all up in arms against me. All which if I stab at one blow, will it not be a greater work, than Hercules in the accomplishment of all his Labours was ever guilty of?

Shall I not have performed a nobler Task, if with no less danger and labour, I overcome these Monsters of Schools, Universities and Pulpits? For I am not ignorant how bloody a Battle I must fight, or how hazardous and difficult the War will be, being to meet with such an Army of potent Enemies.

Woe is me, with what Engins will they seek to destroy me? The Grammarians will rail at me: the Etymologists will derive my name from the Gout: the mad Poets will call me Goat and Momus; the frivolous Historians will profane me beyond Pausanias or Herostratus: the obstreperous Rhetoricians will plague me with their big Words and mimical Gestures: the quarrelsome Logicians will confound me with their Syllogisms.

The nimble Sophisters will sawe my jaws with the snaffles of their subtle Questions. The barbarous Lullist will make me made with his absurd Soloecisms. The Atome-numbering Arithmeticians will set an host of Userers upon me. The Gamesters will curse me. The musicians will sing Ballads of me. The proud Matrons will expel me their Meetings. The Wenches will deny to kiss me. The giggling Girls will laugh, and cry, I dance like a Camel.

The lewd Players will kill me in as Tragedy. The intricate Geometrician will imprison me in his Triangles and Tetragonals. The vain Painter will make me more ugly than an Ape, or Thersites himself. The Cosmographer will banish me among the bears in Greenland. The Astrologer will erect some wicked Scheme or other for me. The Physiognomist will defame me for being impotent.

The Epicures will bespew me to death. The Tyrant will crucife me in Phalaris’s Bull. Hypocrites will declaim against me in their Pulpits. The Whores will pox me. The Priests will excommunicate me. The blasphemous Marriner will throw me overboard. The yawling Hunter will set his Dogs upon me. The Souldier will plunder me. The Ordure-tasting Physicians will throw their Urinal at my Head. The Chyrurgeons will anatomize me. The Lawyers will accuse me of Treason. The Judges will condemn me. Thus, though I omit for brevities sake many others, dost thou not see, Reader, what dangers I am like to run through.

But I am in hopes to avoid their fury, provided that thou, patient to bear the Truth, and laying all Prepossession and Obstinacy aside, will but give they mind candidly and without passion to read what I have writ. I have moreover the Word of God to defend me, which with an undaunted Courage I intend to make use of for my Buckler. I would have thee moreover to know, that I have not writ these things either out of Hatred, Envy, Ambition, or vain Errour, nor did Arrogance prompt me to it; but off all Causes the most just and truest: because I see that so many men, pufft up with Human Knowledge and Learning, not only contemn and despise the Oracles of the Sacred Scripture, but also prosecute and deride it with the same contempt.

Others we see, though to themselves they seem to be more holy, who endeavor to confirm and approve the Lawes of Christ, yet attribute more Authority to the Maximes of Philosophers, than to the holy Prophets of God, the Evangelists or Apostles, though there be so vast a difference between them.

Moreover, we finde that a most detestable Custome has invaded all or most Schools of Learning, to swear their Disciples never to contradict Aristotle, Boethius, Thomas Ablertus, or some such-like School-Deity: From whom if there be any that differ so much as a nails breadth, him they proclaim a scandalous Heretick, a Criminal against the Holy Sciences, fit only to be consumed in Fire and Flames. Therefore these audacious Giants, These Enemies of Scripture are to be set upon, their Bulwarks and Castles are to be stormed: And it behoves us to shew how intolerable the blindness of Men is, to wander from the truth, misguided by so many Sciences and Arts, and by so many Authors and Doctors thereof.

For how great a boldness is it, what an arrogant presumption, to prefer the Schools of the Philosophers before the Church of Christ? and to extol or equal the Opinions of Men, to the Word of God? Lastly, how impious a piece of Tyranny it is, to captivate the Wits of Students to prefixed Authors, and to deprive their Disciples of the liberty of searching after and following the Truth? All which things being so manifest, that they cannot be denied, I may be the more easily pardoned, if I seem to have more freely and bitterly inveighed against some sorts of Sciences and their Professors. Farewell


Prologue to the Translation of the Bible, 1535 Myles Coverdale (c. 1488–1569)

Now whereas the most famous interpreters of all give sundry judgments of the text: so far as it is done by the spirit of knowledge in the Holy Ghost, methink no man should be offended thereat, for they refer their doings in meekness to the spirit of truth in the congregation of God: and sure I am, that there cometh more knowledge and understanding of Scripture by their sundry translations, than by all the glosses of our sophistical doctors.

For that one interpreteth something obscurely in one place, the same translateth another, or else he himself, more manifestly by a more plain vocable of the same meaning in another place. Be not thou offended, therefore, good reader, though one call a scribe that another calleth a lawyer: or elders, that another calleth father and mother: or repentance, that another calleth penance or amendment. For if thou be not deceived by men’s traditions, thou shalt find no more diversity between these terms, than between fourpence and a groat.

And this manner have I used in my translation, calling it in some place penance, that in another place I call repentance; and that not only because the interpreters have done so before me, but that the adversaries of the truth may see, how that we abhor not this word penance, as they untruly report of us, no more than the interpreters of Latin abhor pœnitere, when they read resipiscere. Only our heart’s desire unto God is, that His people be not blinded in their understanding, lest they believe penance to be aught save a very repentance, amendment, or conversion unto God, and to be an unfeigned new creature in Christ, and to live according to his law.

For else shall they fall into the old blasphemy of Christ’s blood, and believe that they themselves are able to make satisfaction unto God for their own sins: from the which error, God of His mercy and plenteous goodness, preserve all His!

Myles Coverdale.jpg

Astrology Theologized by Valentin Weigel 1533-1588 translated by Anna Bonus Kingsford 1846-1888 pages 49-52

Chapter 1
What Astrology is, and what Theology; and how they have reference one to another.

The Kingdom of Nature. Astrology is Philosophy itself, or it is the whole light of Nature, from whence ariseth the universal natural Wisdom or a solid , sincere, and exquisite knowledge of natural things: which light of Nature is twofold, external and internal: external in the Macrocosm, internal in the Microcosm. Or, Astrology is the very knowledge of good and evil, which is, and bears rule in things subject to Nature; which science flourishing in man, unless it be ruled and governed by Theology, that is Divine Wisdom, as the handmaid by her mistress, is vicious. And by her specious appearance, and concupiscible jucundity, man seduceth himself and, as it were by eating of the forbidden tree, or by whoring with the creatures, he maketh his soul the Babylonian Harlot sitting upon the Beast, having seven heads and ten horns, and being sweetly deceived of himself, obtains eternal death to himself.

The Kingdom of Grace. But Theology is the whole light of Grace happening to man from the Holy Spirit effused from above, which is the universal Wisdom of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the saving knowledge of divine and supernatural things, making chaste and purging the soul from every defilement of sin abiding in the mortal body; in respect whereof that natural Wisdom is but a shadow, which, when the world is blotted out and removed, will together with it be blotted out and removed, and then Theology alone shall reign.
Astrology is so called because it ariseth from stars. As Theology, because it flows from God. To live astrologically is with a pleasing concupiscence to eat of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and to bring death to himself. To live theologically is to eat of the wood and Tree of Life by intimate abnegation of oneself and thence it attain to oneself, Life and Salvation.

The light of Nature in Astrology, with his incitative fruits, is the probatory instrument whereby Man, placed in the midst, that is, between God and the Creature, is proved which way he would direct or convert his free will, desire, love and appetite; whether to God his Creator, by loving Him above all things with his whole heart, with his whole mind, with his whole soul, and with his whole strength; which should be the Theological life. Or, whether, casting God behind, he would reflect to himself and to the Creature by love of himself, and arrogating of good things received, which was the Astrological life at the Babylonian fornication, as will appear by that which followeth.

Astrology possesseth our soul with the external body, wherein the Light of Nature dwells and shines forth, in some more excellently, in others less. And it contains in itself two things.

1st. All kind of Sciences, Arts, Tongues, Faculties, and natural studies; all the gifts, as well of the mind, as of the body, and also all negotiations, occupations, actions, and labours of men, how many soever of them are found, exercised and used in all times upon the whole earth, everywhere amongst men, as well old as new, serving as well to good as to bad uses.

2nd. Under Astrology, are referred all orders, states, and degrees of men, distinction of persons, dignities, gifts, offices, and every kind of life as well naturally ordained by God Himself, as thought of and invented by human wit, and found out in the whole world from the highest and most honourable to the lowest and most base.

All these are the fruits of Stars, and have their original from Astrology, and pertain to the body and soul, and may be as well good as bad, according to the diverse pleasures of the users and abusers.

But Theology possesseth our Spirit, which we have from God alone, which alone is Theologus, that is the Speech of God, the Breath of God, the Word of God, being and inhabiting in the Temple of our heart, from which alone according to sacred letters, true Theology is to be drawn forth; that is, the knowledge of God, of things divine and celestial and supernatural, arising from within, from the illumination of the holy Spirit Itself dwelling within us. According to Whose beck, will and command, we ought to institute, direct and finish all our Sciences, Arts, studies, actions, offices, vocations, industries, labours and kinds of life, invented and drawn forth on earth from the Light of Nature; so as whatsoever we think, say, or do in the world, in all arts, sciences and labours, it all proceeds from the Will of God, and seems, as it were to be done and governed by God Himself in us, as by His fit instruments.


Aug. 13th, 1588 Mr. Thomas Sowthwell ryd to Prag ward from Trebon. He told us of the philosopher (his scholemaster to write) whose name was Mr. Swyft, who gave him a lump of the philosopher’s stone so big as his fist: a Jesuit named Mr. Stale had it of him. From The Diary of John Dee

John Dee Ashmolean.jpg

An Opinionater By Samuel Butler (1612–1680)
From the Remains

AN OPINIONATER is his own confidant, that maintains more opinions than he is able to support. They are all bastards commonly and unlawfully begotten; but being his own, he had rather, out of natural affection, take any pains, or beg, than they should want a subsistence. The eagerness and violence he uses to defend them argues they are weak, for if they were true, they would not need it. How false soever they are to him he is true to them; and as all extraordinary affections of love or friendship are usually upon the meanest accounts, he is resolved never to forsake them, how ridiculous soever they render themselves and him to the world. He is a kind of a knight errant, that is bound by his order to defend the weak and distressed, and deliver enchanted paradoxes, that are bewitched, and held by magicians and conjurors in invisible castles. He affects to have his opinions as unlike other men’s as he can, no matter whether better or worse, like those that wear fantastic clothes of their own devising.

No force of argument can prevail upon him; for, like a madman, the strength of two men in their wits is not able to hold him down. His obstinacy grows out of his ignorance; for probability has so many ways, that whosoever understands them will not be confident of any one. He holds his opinions as men do their lands, and, though his tenure be litigious, he will spend all he has to maintain it. He does not so much as know what opinion means, which always supposing uncertainty, is not capable of confidence. The more implicit his obstinacy is, the more stubborn it renders him; for implicit faith is always more pertinacious than that which can give an account of itself; and as cowards, that are well backed, will appear boldest, he that believes as the Church believes is more violent, though he knows not what it is, than he that can give a reason for his faith, and as men in the dark endeavour to tread firmer than when they are in the light, the darkness of his understanding makes him careful to stand fast wheresover he happens, though it be out of his way.

Samuel Butler by Pieter Borsseler.jpg

John Locke 1632-1704 An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding Chapter II.Other Considerations Concerning Innate Principles, Both Speculative And Practical. 24

This I am certain, I have not made it my business either to quit or follow any authority in the ensuing Discourse. Truth has been my only aim; and wherever that has appeared to lead, my thoughts have impartially followed, without minding whether the footsteps of any other lay that way or not. Not that I want a due respect to other men’s opinions; but, after all, the greatest reverence is due to truth: and I hope it will not be thought arrogance to say, that perhaps we should make greater progress in the discovery of rational and contemplative knowledge, if we sought it in the fountain, IN THE CONSIDERATION OF THINGS THEMSELVES; and made use rather of our own thoughts than other men’s to find it. For I think we may as rationally hope to see with other men’s eyes, as to know by other men’s understandings. So much as we ourselves consider and comprehend of truth and reason, so much we possess of real and true knowledge.

The floating of other men’s opinions in our brains, makes us not one jot the more knowing, though they happen to be true. What in them was science, is in us but opiniatrety; whilst we give up our assent only to reverend names, and do not, as they did, employ our own reason to understand those truths which gave them reputation. Aristotle was certainly a knowing man, but nobody ever thought him so because he blindly embraced, and confidently vented the opinions of another. And if the taking up of another’s principles, without examining them, made not him a philosopher, I suppose it will hardly make anybody else so. In the sciences, every one has so much as he really knows and comprehends. What he believes only, and takes upon trust, are but shreds; which, however well in the whole piece, make no considerable addition to his stock who gathers them. Such borrowed wealth, like fairy money, though it were gold in the hand from which he received it, will be but leaves and dust when it comes to use.

John Locke What Is Is

The philosophical works of the late Right Honorable Henry St. John, lord viscount Bolingbroke by Bolingbroke, Henry St. John, Viscount, 1678-1751 Published 1754 p. 279-280

(1754) Tully confesses very frankly that nothing is so absurd which some philosopher or other has not said: and his own works would furnish sufficient proofs of the assertion, under the epicurean, the stoical, and the academical characters particularly, if they were wanted. But this confession does not go far enough: and we may employ upon this occasion against philosophers the objection made against the Jesuits by some of their enemies. The absurdities of philosophers are not to be ascribed to the particular men alone who broached them in every philosophical age, but to their order and institution, if I may say so; the principles and spirit of which lead by necessary consequences to such absurdities. The first founders of philosophy laid these principles, and inspired this spirit in days of ignorance and superstition. Their followers have refined upon them, confirmed them, and added to them.

Time and authority have established them all, the oldest and the grossest most. Words that have really no meaning are thought to have one, and are used accordingly. Ideas, that are really incomplete and inadequate, are deemed complete and adequate. Ideas, that are obscure and confused, are deemed clear and defined; in a word, time and authority have so well established metaphysical and theological absurdities, that they past for the first principles of science, like certain necessary and self-evident truths which are really such. Men, who would have been giants in the human sphere, have dwindled into pygmies by going out of it. Instead of heaping mountains on mountains of knowledge to scale the sky, they heap mole-hills on mole-hills with great airs of importance, and boast ridiculously not only of their design, but of their success. They build intellectual and material worlds on the hypothetical suggestions of imagination. This they call philosophy, metaphysical and physical.


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The Argument from Probability in Religion
By Joseph Butler (1692–1752) from Analogy of Religion

Persons who speak of the evidence of religion as doubtful, and of this supposed doubtfulness as a positive argument against it, should be put upon considering, what that evidence indeed is, which they act upon with regard to their temporal interests. For, it is not only extremely difficult, but in many cases absolutely impossible, to balance pleasure and pain, satisfaction and uneasiness, so as to be able to say on which side the overplus is.

There are the like difficulties and impossibilities in making the due allowances for a change of temper and taste, for satiety, disgusts, ill health: any of which render men incapable of enjoying, after they have obtained what they most eagerly desired. Numberless too are the accidents, besides that one of untimely death, which may even probably disappoint the best concerted schemes: and strong objections are often seen to lie against them, not to be removed or answered, but which seem overbalanced by reasons on the other side; so as that the certain difficulties and dangers of the pursuit are, by every one, thought justly disregarded, upon account of the appearing greater advantages in case of success, though there be but little probability of it. Lastly, every one observes our liableness, if we be not upon our guard, to be deceived by the falsehood of men, and the false appearances of things: and this danger must be greatly increased, if there be a strong bias within, suppose from indulged passion, to favour the deceit.

Hence arises that great uncertainty and doubtfulness of proof, wherein our temporal interest really consists; what are the most probable means of attaining it; and whether those means will eventually be successful. And numberless instances there are, in the daily course of life, in which all men think it reasonable to engage in pursuits, though the probability is greatly against succeeding: and to make such provision for themselves, as it is supposable they may have occasion for, though the plain acknowledged probability is, that they never shall. Then those who think the objection against revelation, from its light not being universal, to be of weight, should observe, that the Author of Nature, in numberless instances, bestow That upon some, which He does not upon others, who seem equally to stand in need of it.

Indeed He appears to bestow all His gifts with the most promiscuous variety among creatures of the same species: health and strength, capacities of prudence and of knowledge, means of improvement, riches, and all external advantages. And as there are not any two men found, of exactly like shape and features; so it is probable there are not any two, of an exactly like constitution, temper, and situation, with regard to the goods and evils of life. Yet, notwithstanding these uncertainties and varieties, God does exercise a natural government over the world: and there is such a thing as a prudent and imprudent institution of life, with regard to our health and our affairs, under that His natural government.

A middle-aged white man seated and wearing Georgian-era English clerical robes.

Jean Jacques Rousseau, Emile 1762

With the help of dice Descartes made heaven and earth; but he could not set his dice in motion, nor start the action of his centrifugal force without the help of rotation. Newton discovered the law of gravitation; but gravitation alone would soon reduce the universe to a motionless mass; he was compelled to add a projectile force to account for the elliptical course of the celestial bodies; let Newton show us the hand that launched the planets in the tangent of their orbits.


Dreams of a spirit-seer 1766 by Kant, Immanuel

Kant on Knowledge 1766


There are people who have remained, from time immemorial, in one of the two states we have described. They have not only not risen of themselves to any higher degree of improvement, but the connections and commercial intercourse they have had with nations more civilized have failed to produce this effect. Such connections and intercourse have communicated to them some knowledge, some industry, and a great many vices, but have never been able to draw them from their state of mental stagnation.

The principal causes of this phenomenon are to be found in climate; in habit; in the sweets annexed to this state of almost complete independence, an independence not to be equaled but in a society more perfect even than our own; in the natural attachment of man to opinions received from his infancy, and to the customs of his country; in the novelty; in bodily and more especially mental indolence, which suppress the feeble and as yet scarcely existing spark of curiosity; and lastly, in the empire which superstition already exercises over these infant societies.

To these causes must be added the avarice, cruelty, corruption and prejudices of polished nations, who appear to these people more powerful, more rich, more informed, more active, but at the same time more vicious, and particularly less happy than themselves. They must frequently indeed have been less struck with the superiority of such nations, than terrified at the multiplicity and extent of their wants, the torments of their avarice, the never ceasing agitations of their ever active, ever insatiable passions.

  • Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat Condorcet 1743-1794

Outlines of an historical view of the progress of the human mind: being a posthumous work of the late M. de Condorcet. Tr. from the French.

The Religious Significance of the Science of Knowledge, Johann Fichte 1798

Life is the totality of the objective rational being; and speculation is the totality of the subjective rational being. One is not possible without the other. Life, as an active surrendering to a mechanism, is not possible without the activity and freedom (otherwise speculation) which surrenders itself; though the latter may not arise to the clear consciousness of every individual; and speculation is not possible without the life from which it abstracts. Both life and speculation are determinable only through each other. Life is most properly not-philosophising; and philosophising is most properly not-life.

Philosophy is pedagogical in the widest significance of this word, for the immediate practical life. Because this science has to teach us to comprehend the whole man, it shows from the highest grounds how men should be cultured, in order to make permanent in them moral and religious sentiments, and gradually to universalize these sentiments.

The Autobiography of Goethe Volume 2 P. 349-350

We (Goethe and Herder) had not lived together long in this manner when he confided to me that he meant to be competitor for the prize which was offered at Berlin, for the best treatise on the origin of language. His work was already nearly completed, and, as he wrote a very neat hand, he could soon communicate to me, in parts, a legible manuscript. I had never reflected on such subjects, for I was yet too deeply involved in the midst of things to have thought about their beginning and end. The question, too, seemed to me in some measure and idle one; for if God had created man as man, language was just as innate in him as walking erect; he must have just as well perceived that he could sing with his throat, and modify the tones in various ways with tongue, palate, and lips, as he must have remarked that he could walk and take hold of things. If man was of divine origin, so was also language itself: and if man, considered in the circle of nature was a natural being, language was likewise natural. These two things, like soul and body, I could never separate.

Silberschlag, with a realism crude yet somewhat fantastically devised, had declared himself for the divine origin, that is, that God had played the schoolmaster to the first men. Herder’s treatise went to show that man as man could and must have attained to language by his own powers. I read the treatise with much pleasure, and it was of special aid in strengthening my mind; only I did not stand high enough either in knowledge or thought to form a solid judgment upon it. But one was received just like the other; there was scolding and blaming, whether one agreed with him conditionally or unconditionally. The fat surgeon (Lobstein) had less patience than I; he humorously declined the communication of this prize-essay, and affirmed that he was not prepared to meditate on such abstract topics. He urged us in preference to a game of ombre, which we commonly played together in the evening.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832)

Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, 1846 Hong 1992 p. 302

Abstraction does not care about whether a particular existing human being is immortal, and just that is the difficulty. It is disinterested, but the difficulty of existence is the existing person’s interest, and the existing person is infinitely interested in existing.

Thus abstract thinking helps me with my immortality by killing me as a particular existing individual and then making me immortal and therefore helps somewhat as in Holberg the doctor took the patient’s life with his medicine, but drove out the fever.

Therefore, when one considers an abstract thinker who is unwilling to make clear to himself and to admit the relation his abstract thinking has to his being an existing person, he makes a comic impression, even if he is ever so distinguished, because he is about to cease to be a human being.

Whereas an actual human being, composed of the infinite and the finite and infinitely interested in existing, has his actuality precisely in holding these together, such an abstract thinker is a double creature, a fantastic creature who lives in the pure being of abstraction, and an at times pitiful professorial figure which that abstract creature sets down just as one sets down a cane.

Stages on Life’s Way, 1845 (Hong) p. 124
I was brought up in the Christian religion, and although I can scarcely sanction all the improper attempts to gain the emancipation of woman, all paganlike reminiscences also seem foolish to me. My brief and simple opinion is that woman is certainly as good as man-period. Any more discursive elaboration of the difference between the sexes or deliberation on which sex is superior is an idle intellectual occupation for loafers and bachelors.   

People are scarcely aware that it is a slavery they are creating; they forget this in their zeal to make people free by overthrowing dominions. They are scarcely aware that it is slavery; how could it be possible to be a slave in relation to equals?

Soren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong p. 327

 The Crowd is Untruth.

And to honor every individual human being, unconditionally every human being, that is the truth and fear of God and love of “the neighbor”; but ethico-religiously viewed, to recognize “the crowd” as the court of last resort in relation to “the truth,” that is to deny God and cannot possibly be to love “the neighbor.” And “the neighbor” is the absolutely true expression for human equality; if everyone in truth loved the neighbor as himself, then would perfect human equality be unconditionally attained; every one who in truth loves the neighbor, expresses unconditional human equality; every one who is really aware (even if he admits, like I, that his effort is weak and imperfect) that the task is to love the neighbor, he is also aware of what human equality is.

But never have I read in the Holy Scriptures this command: You shall love the crowd; even less: You shall, ethico-religiously, recognize in the crowd the court of last resort in relation to “the truth.” It is clear that to love the neighbor is self-denial, that to love the crowd or to act as if one loved it, to make it the court of last resort for “the truth,” that is the way to truly gain power, the way to all sorts of temporal and worldly advantage – yet it is untruth; for the crowd is untruth.

A crowd is indeed made up of single individuals; it must therefore be in everyone’s power to become what he is, a single individual; no one is prevented from being a single individual, no one, unless he prevents himself by becoming many. To become a crowd, to gather a crowd around oneself, is on the contrary to distinguish life from life; even the most well-meaning one who talks about that, can easily offend a single individual.   Søren Kierkegaard, On the Dedication to “That Single Individual”

Sk Black 1

Of the Contents of Newspapers
By Thomas Love Peacock (1785–1866)
From Gryll Grange 1861

Mrs. Opimian.  Perhaps, doctor, the world is too good to see any novelty except in something wrong.

The Rev. Dr. Opimian.  Perhaps it is only wrong that arrests attention, because right is common, and wrong is rare. Of the many thousand persons who walk daily through a street you only hear of one who has been robbed or knocked down. If ever Hamlet’s news—“that the world has grown honest”—should prove true, there would be an end of our newspaper. For, let us see what is the epitome of a newspaper? In the first place, specimens of all the deadly sins, and infinite varieties of violence and fraud; a great quantity of talk, called by courtesy legislative wisdom, of which the result is “an incoherent and undigested mass of law, shot down, as from a rubbish cart, on the heads of the people”; lawyers barking at each other in that peculiar style of hylactic delivery which is called forensic eloquence, and of which the first and most distinguished practitioner was Cerberus; bear-garden meetings of mismanaged companies, in which directors and shareholders abuse each other in choice terms, not all to be found even in Rabelais; burstings of bank bubbles, which, like a touch of harlequin’s wand, strip off their masks and dominos from highly respectable gentlemen, and leave them in their true figures of cheats and pickpockets; societies of all sorts, for teaching everybody everything, meddling with everybody’s business, and mending everybody’s morals; mountebank advertisements promising the beauty of Helen in a bottle of cosmetic, and the age of Old Parr in a box of pills; folly all alive in things called réunions; announcements that some exceedingly stupid fellow has been entertaining a select company; matters, however multiform, multifarious, and multitudinous, all brought into family likeness by the varnish of false pretension with which they are all overlaid.

Mrs. Opimian.  I do not like to interrupt you, doctor; but it struck me, while you were speaking, that in reading the newspaper, you do not hear the bark of lawyers.

The Rev. Dr. Opimian.  True; but no one who has once heard the wow-wow can fail to reproduce it in imagination.

Mrs. Opimian.  You have omitted accidents, which occupy a large space in the newspaper. If the world grew ever so honest, there would still be accidents.

The Rev. Dr. Opimian.  But honesty would materially diminish the number. High-pressure steam boilers would not scatter death and destruction around them, if the dishonesty of avarice did not tempt their employment, where the more costly low-pressure would ensure absolute safety. Honestly built houses would not come suddenly down and crush their occupants. Ships, faithfully built and efficiently manned, would not so readily strike on a lee shore, nor go instantly to pieces on the first touch of the ground. Honestly made sweetmeats would not poison children; honestly compounded drugs would not poison patients. In short, the larger portion of what we call accidents are crimes.

Mrs. Opimian.  I have often heard you say, of railways and steam-vessels, that the primary cause of their disasters is the insane passion of the public for speed. That is not crime, but folly.

The Rev. Dr. Opimian.  It is crime in those who ought to know better than to act in furtherance of the folly. But when the world has grown honest, it will no doubt grow wise. When we have got rid of crime, we may consider how to get rid of folly. So that question is adjourned to the Greek Kalends.

Mrs. Opimian.  There are always in a newspaper some things of a creditable character.

The Rev. Dr. Opimian.  When we are at war, naval and military heroism abundantly; but in time of peace, these virtues sleep. They are laid up like ships in ordinary. No doubt, of the recorded facts of civil life some are good, and more are indifferent, neither good nor bad; but good and indifferent together are scarcely more than a twelfth of the whole. Still, the matters thus presented are all exceptional cases. A hermit reading nothing but a newspaper might find little else than food for misanthropy; but living among friends, and in the bosom of our family, we see the dark side of life in the occasional picture, the bright in its everyday aspect. The occasional is the matter of curiosity, of incident, of adventure, of things that really happen to few, and may possibly happen to any. The interest attendant on any action or event is in just proportion to its rarity; and, happily, quiet virtues are all around us, and obtrusive virtues seldom cross our path. On the whole, I agree in opinion with Theseus, that there is more good than evil in the world.

Mrs. Opimian.  I think, doctor, you would not maintain any opinion if you had not an authority two thousand years old for it.

The Rev. Dr. Opimian.  Well, my dear, I think most opinions worth mentioning have an authority of about that age.

Thomas Love Peacock by Henry Wallis.jpg

Chips from a German workshop by Friedrich Max Müller, 1823-1900; Bunsen, Christian Karl Josias, Freiherr von, 1791-1860 Published 1876

File:Max Muller taken by Lewis Carroll.jpgIf we grant to Sokrates that the chief object of philosophy is that man should know himself, we should hardly consider his means of arriving at this knowledge adequate to so high an aim. To his mind man was preeminently the individual, without any reference to its being but one manifestation of a power, or, as he might have said, of an idea, realized in and through an endless variety of human souls. He is ever seeking to solve the mystery of human nature by brooding over his own mind, by watching the secret workings of the soul, by analyzing the organs of knowledge, and by trying to determine their proper limits; and thus the last result of his philosophy was, that he knew but one thing, and this was, that he knew nothing.

To us, man is no longer this solitary being, complete in itself, and self-sufficient; man to us is a brother among brothers, a member of a class, of a genus, or a kind, and therefore intelligible only with reference to his equals. The earth was unintelligible to the ancients, because looked upon as a solitary being, without a peer in the whole universe; but it assumed a new and true significance as soon as it rose before the eyes of man as one of many planets, all governed by the same laws, and all revolving around the same centre. It is the same with the human soul, and its nature stands before our mind in quite a different light since man has been taught to know and feel himself as a member of one great family, as one of the myriads of wandering stars, all governed by the same laws, and all revolving around the same centre, and all deriving their light from the same source.

The history of the world, or, as it is called, “Universal History,” has laid open new avenues of thought, and it has enriched our language with a word which never passed the lips of Sokrates, or Plato, or Aristotle, mankind. Where the Greek saw barbarians, we see brethren; where the Greek saw heroes and demi-gods, we see our parents and ancestors; where the Greek saw nations, we see mankind, toiling and suffering, separated by oceans, divided by language, and severed by national enmity, yet evermore tending, under a divine control, towards the fulfillment of that inscrutable purpose for which the world was created, and man placed in it, bearing the image of God. History, therefore, with its dusty and mouldering pages, is to us as sacred a volume as the book of nature. In both we read, or we try to read, the reflex of the laws and thoughts of a Divine Wisdom.

As we acknowledge no longer in nature the working of demons or the manifestation of an evil principle, so we deny in history an atomistic conglomerate of chances, or the despotic rule of a mute fate. We believe that there is nothing irrational in either history or nature, and that the human mind is called upon to read and to revere, in both the manifestations of a Divine Power. Hence, even the most ancient and shattered pages of traditions are dear to us, nay dearer, perhaps, than the more copious chapters of modern times. The history of those distant ages and distant men apparently so foreign to our modern interests assumes a new charm as soon as we know that it tells us the story of our own race, of our own family, nay, of our own selves.

Sometimes, when opening a desk which we have not opened for many years, when looking over letters which we have not read for many years, we read on for some time with a cold indifference, and though we see it is our own handwriting, and though we meet with names once familiar to our heart, yet we can hardly believe that we wrote these letters, that we felt those pangs, that we shared in those delights, till at last the past draws near and we draw near to the past, and our heart grows warm, and we feel again as we felt of old, and we know that these letters were our letters. It is the same in reading ancient history. At first it seems something strange and foreign; but the more in tensely we read, the more our thoughts are engaged and our feelings warmed; and the history of those ancient men becomes, as it were, our own history, their sufferings our sufferings, their joys our joys. Without this sympathy, history is a dead letter, and might as well be burnt and forgotten; while, if it is once enlivened by this feeling, it appeals not only to the antiquarian, but to the heart of every man.

We find ourselves on a stage on which many acts have been acted before us, and where we are suddenly called to act our own part. To know the part which we have to act ourselves, we ought to know the character of those whose place we take. We naturally look back to the scenes on which the curtain of the past has fallen, for we believe that there ought to be one thought pervading the whole drama of mankind. And here History steps in, and gives us the thread which connects the present with the past. Many scenes, it is true, are lost beyond the hope of recovery; and the most interesting, the opening scenes of the childhood of the human race, are known to us by small fragments only. But for this very reason the antiquarian, if he descries a relic of those early times, grasps it with the eagerness of a biographer who finds unexpectedly some scraps written by his hero when yet a child entirely himself, and before the shadows of life had settled on his brow. In whatever language it may be written, every line, every word, is welcome, that bears the impress of the early days of mankind. In our museums we collect the rude playthings of our hero s boyhood, and we try to guess from their colossal features the thoughts of the mind which they once reflected.

Many things are still unintelligible to us, and the hieroglyphic language of antiquity records but half of the mind s unconscious intentions. Yet more and more the image of man, in whatever clime we meet him, rises before us, noble and pure from the very beginning: even his errors we learn to understand, even his dreams we begin to interpret. As far as we can trace back the footsteps of man, even on the lowest strata of history, we see that the divine gift of a sound and sober intellect be longed to him from the very first; and the idea of a humanity emerging slowly from the depths of an animal brutality can never be maintained again. The earliest work of art wrought by the human mind, more ancient than any literary document, and prior even to the first whisperings of tradition, the human language, forms an uninterrupted chain from the first dawn of history down to our own times.

We still speak the language of the first ancestors of our race; and this language, with its wonderful structure, bears witness against such gratuitous imputations. The formation of language, the composition of roots, the gradual discrimination of meanings, the systematic elaboration of grammatical forms, all this working which we can still see under the surface of our own speech, at tests from the very first the presence of a rational mind of an artist as great, at least, as his work.

Earlier, in December 1915 David F. Swenson, who introduced Kierkegaard to America, had attended the American Philosophical Association meeting at the University of Pennsylvania where he presented a shortened version an article he later delivered to the Philosophical Review of 1916.

The Anti-Intellectualism of Kierkegaard. D.F. Swenson

 David F Swenson wrote an article in The Philosophical Review called The Anti-Intellectualism of Kierkegaard July 1, 1916.  Click on the title and you can read it. He also wrote the Logical aphorisms below.

kierkeaard and swenson

Religion, Reason and Revelation, by Gordon H. Clark, 1961 75-76

Many philosophers and theologians considered Kierkegaard’s stance on life as being against reason. Gordon H Clark was one of them, although here he seems to be in agreement with him so some extent. 

 It is not true that the real is the rational. Reality, asserts Kierkegaard, cannot be grasped by reason. In spite of the argument in the Phenomenology, the immediate, the now, the this, and especially the mine cannot be “aufgehoben” or suppressed. For S.K. God is truth; but truth exists only for a believer who inwardly experienced the tension between himself and God. The historical is not religious and the religious is not historical.

If Christ were an historical figure who lived a long time ago, he would have no religious significance now. Conversely, if Christ were a religious figure, the historical interval must be cancelled by an inner contemporaneity. Real religion does not consist in understanding anything. It is a matter of feeling, of anti-intellectual passionateness. The acceptance of any objective historical truth depends on historical method; and the objective student of history is too modest to put his own feelings into his conclusions. Speculative thinkers are not personally interested in suffering; they do not study the subjective truth of appropriation.


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