Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Quotations

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People are always shouting they want to create a better future. It's not true. The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it. The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past.

Milan Kundera


And herein, I think, all the philosophers of the newest age are open to a serious criticism. What they do not possess is real standing in actual life. Not one of them has intervened effectively, either in higher politics, in the development of modern technics, in matters of communication, in economics, or in any other big actuality, with a single act or a single compelling idea. Not one of them counts in mathematics, in physics, in the science of government, even to the extent that Kant counted. Let us glance at other times. Confucius was several times a minister. Pythagoras was the organizer of an important

political movement akin to the Cromwellian, the significance of which is even now far underestimated by Classical researchers. Goethe, besides being a model executive minister though lacking, alas! the operative sphere of a great state was interested in the Suez and Panama canals (the dates of which he foresaw with accuracy) and their effects on the economy of the world, and he busied himself again and again with the question of American economic life and its reactions on the Old World, and with that of the dawning era of machine-industry. Hobbes was one of the originators of the great plan of winning South America for England, and although in execution the plan went no further than the occupation of Jamaica, he has the glory of being one of the founders of the British Colonial Empire. Leibniz, without doubt the greatest intellect in Western philosophy, the founder of the differential calculus and the analysis situs, conceived or co-operated in a number of major political schemes, one of which was to relieve Germany by drawing the attention of Louis XIV to the importance of Egypt as a factor in French world-policy. The ideas of the memorandum on this subject that he drew up for the Grand Monarch were so far in advance of their time (1672) that it has been thought that Napoleon made use of them for his Eastern venture. Even thus early, Leibniz laid down the principle that Napoleon grasped more and more clearly after Wagram, viz., that acquisitions on the Rhine and in Belgium would not permanently better the position of France and that the neck of Suez would one day be the key of world-dominance. Doubtless the King was not equal to these deep political and strategic conceptions of the Philosopher.


Turning from men of this mould to the philosophers of to-day, one is dismayed and shamed. How poor their personalities, how commonplace their political and practical outlook! Why is it that the mere idea of calling upon one of them to prove his intellectual eminence in government, diplomacy, large-scale organization, or direction of any big colonial, commercial or transport concern is enough to evoke our pity? And this insufficiency indicates, not that they possess inwardness, but simply that they lack weight. I look round in vain for an instance in which a modern "philosopher" has made a name by even one deep or far-seeing pronouncement on an important question of the day. I see nothing but provincial opinions of the same kind as anyone else's. Whenever I take up a work by a modern thinker, I find myself asking: has he any idea whatever of the actualities of world-politics, world-city problems, capitalism, the future of the state, the relation of technics to the course of civilization, Russia, Science? Goethe would have understood all this and revelled in it, but there is not one living philosopher capable of taking it in.

Oswald Spengler

2 comments:

  1. There were various philosophers that saw what Spengler deplores, and tried to explain it. One comes to mind: Bertrand De Jouvenel. He mentions in the little essay The Ethics of Redistribution, that redistributing resources creates a dilution of culture, as the redistributed resources are burned out in the most easily available form of entertainment. Psychologists point out that people use "free" resources in what they see as leisure and very rarely in 'investments'.
    Jouvenel's point is that this not only dilutes culture, but reverses the hierarchy of values: the source of cheap entertainment is more valuable and produces more rewards than the hard and arduous road of philosophy. Facebook comes to mind as the best validation of Jouvenel's ideas. But humanity goes through various value systems as the world turn around. There was a time when salt was more valuable than gold, we go through a phase when food recipes are more valuable than good stewardship and understanding. For us, Romanians this reversal of values is old news; we went through it as universities were emptied of deserving students in the 40's and filled with 'proletarian' students. They used to be called graduates on points, just as in the US we have college students that are admitted to top universities on points. The only difference is that it was imposed on us, whereas what befell the West seems to be organic.

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  2. “We are all anti-Semites. A few of us have the courage or coquetry not to let it show.”

    Jules Renard

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