We want to talk about philosophy from a practical standpoint, as a useful way of living, which people personally adopt without being able to talk about it.

When it comes to wisdom, there are three approaches:

First, there is the academic approach, where you have to write a paper and support your argument and defend your thesis with approved and authorized arguments which have been approved and authorized by someone else. The teacher, or professor, exists merely to make sure that authorization gets its due; the process is finally one in which the argument defended is not the student’s argument, but someone else’s argument, an argument which has already been approved. The game is: approving what has already been approved; and the result is: very little thinking takes place at all.

The academic approach is nearly always unsatisfying; it exists for teachers, not students, and the rigor involved only serves to frustrate those looking for a philosophy which is lived, and not just talked about. Paper-writing in school almost always chases people away to search for other avenues of wisdom.

The philosophy involved here may not be called religion, but this is what practical philosophy, even philosophy which explicitly rejects authoritarian religion, is. Philosophy exists, and it exists for 99 people out of a 100, as religion, as a way to behave for maximum advantage. Academics, naturally feeling themselves scientifically superior to anything merely practical (or, God forbid, “religious!”) in a common sort of way, demand a certain authority and rigor which kills the whole spirit of philosophy (and all its religious guises), ruining the process from the very start.

The second approach is the highly practical, or hedonist approach, the “religion” mostly taken up by the young, unattached male, which is no-philosophy or no-religion, a highly efficient approach that allows them to temporarily “believe” in whatever religion or ancient Chinese philosophy may be deeply or superficially held by the current female they are trying to seduce. This second approach has no authority or rigor at all, but more than makes up for this lack by being infinitely more practical than the first (academic) approach. Having been to college, or currently in college, academic “wisdom” may be quoted here and there to impress, but this is all simply part of the hedonistic goal of the second approach, which merely uses whatever is available to get what it wants from the female, who most likely has rejected the first ( academic) approach, as well, as being much too impractical. (And even the female who received an ‘A’ in philosophy did so only to please the professor.)

And this leads us to the third approach, mostly chosen by the earnest young female, searching for a “good philosophy” which shows them, hopefully with just a few quotes from Lao Tzu, to behave for maximum advantage in a world full of persistent, no-philosophy, male seducers, odious authoritarian religions, and corporate, Nature-destroying, cynicism.

The first approach, academic philosophy, has no practical use for anyone (except for those earning a living in academia) and can be fairly said not to exist at all. The second approach, the no-philosophy approach, has, by its very description, no real philosophical or religious existence, either—though its impact on the real world is significant and profound, and helps create the necessity of the third approach.

The third approach, then, is where philosophy, by default, really exists and is really practiced. This philosophy exists under the radar; it is not taken seriously, perhaps, because it is believed and lived most strenuously by women in an almost secretive and informal manner, manifested most intensely to lovers and potential partners. The third approach has been around long enough—since about the time when Christianity began to lose its pervasive hold on American morals—so that its philosophy has informed the last few generations: children learn it from their mothers, and, increasingly, from their fathers, and we can see it in Disney movies most visibly, films which feature talking animals and children who love animals, films which heroically attack Nature-destroying corporate cynicism, love of animals being a chief attribute of this pervasive, third-approach philosophy.

Whether it is Ayn Rand or Lao Tzu, every young woman who is not a cheerleader, and thinks for herself just a little bit, arms herself with a practical, anti-authoritarian philosophy, to fend off mean parents, mainstream religion, and no-philosophy, ravenous guys, and also to give herself a certain intellectual dignity in the face of the ravenous guy who affects a certain intelligence about philosophical matters.

This is a good thing; a young woman (or a young man, too; there are exceptions) should have a practical philosophy to navigate the perils of a cynical world.

But the good thing is almost a bad thing if the third approach philosophy is merely pragmatic. Fake wisdom is often worse than no wisdom at all, for nothing deceives quite like fake wisdom.

Here is the problem with the pragmatic: we have already seen how pragmatic the second approach is; the most pragmatic philosophy is the no-philosophy of the second approach, which can be any philosophy it wants, depending on its victim. The pragmatic philosophy of the third approach will always lose out, in terms of pragmatism, to the second approach. This will inevitably cause a great deal of emotional and mental and spiritual distress in the follower of the third approach; their “wisdom” only works for them up to a certain point, and they will find themselves constantly betraying their principles to a point where they begin to doubt they have a philosophy or set of beliefs at all, even as they tenaciously cling to their philosophy in a vague, self-doubting sort of manner.

We will look specifically at the most common principles of the third approach, a philosophy, which we have already pointed out, exists as an antidote to the super-cynical second approach in order to protect the person and the dignity and the sanity of the young woman making her way in the world. It will quickly be seen, however, that no “practical wisdom” can defend itself against the super-cynical Second Approach of “no-wisdom,” for the “no-wisdom”of the seducing guy is the ultimate pragmatism. And the young woman who chooses the Third Approach is vaguely aware of this, but finally succumbs to cynicism herself.

The Socratic philosophy is the only true antidote to the second approach, for Socrates recommends argument, not a set of wise quotations, as defense: the only true philosophy reacts to world-seductions by making the seductions themselves the true content of its philosophy as it carefully analyzes these seductions and gives them their due, and ascertains what they ultimately entail, without embracing or rejecting them at first. In this sense, the Socratic philosophy is like the second approach, keeping itself free to adapt in real time to whatever comes its way, and not trapping itself in a set of “wise sayings,” which can always be turned inside out and upside down by anyone who is moderately clever.

Here, for instance, is the “wisdom” of Lao Tzu, which millions learn in the form of “wise sayings” and which millions of women religiously use to keep themselves safe from the ravenous horrors of the cynical and selfish world:

Silence is a source of Great Strength.

Stop thinking and end your problems.

Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.

Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others.

Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need approval.

Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.

There is a common thread to all these quotes, and their “wisdom” is such that one can see why those who desperately need to resist the seductive no-philosophy of the Second Approach would find this attractive. As we can see, it is precisely this kind of philosophy which we mentioned above: a way to behave for maximum advantage, a philosophy which is closer to a practical religion: but recall what we said about a philosophy that is practical—it will always be defeated pragmatically by the Second Approach, which is free to be as practical as it needs to be, which holds all the free-ranging, pragmatic cards, since it invests in no preconceived, fixed wisdom at all.

What we notice about the “wisdom” of Lao Tzu is that it encourages its followers to be silent, to invest in no argument at all; that is, this philosophy argues for a kind of no-philosophy (just like the seductive Second Approach!) Lao Tzu, in speaking to the woman who needs to protect herself against the take-no-prisoners, say-anything-to-win, super-pragmatic Second Approach, counsels that one should just shut up, keep silent, don’t argue, don’t think, don’t try to convince, don’t seek approval—in other words, it resembles the myth of the maiden who flees Apollo and turns into a tree. Protect yourself from the false seducer by becoming a rock.

But is this bit of pragmatism possible? Can one really survive in this world by not caring what others think? By not seeking anyone’s approval? By not thinking? Is this good advice? It is perhaps good advice when facing down an enemy with sugared words, but even here, will shutting one’s ears and closing off one’s thoughts really work?

Lao Tzu is counseling the woman (or the man) to avoid argument altogether. Lao Tzu is saying: use ignorance as your fortress. Make people think you are smart by never uttering a word. Roll yourself up into a ball and shut out the world. This may work at times, but always? Is this “wisdom,” then? No, it is fake wisdom. It is foolishness, really, and it only appeals because it partially mimics the no-philosophy of the second approach seducer. Lao Tzu’s “wisdom” fails, for only the courageously free Socratic argument can determine the good from the bad, when it comes to speech and its entire nexus of motivations. Non-verbal judgment and ‘thinking without thinking’ are valid approaches, but with Lao Tzu and the wisdom of the Tao, we see a complete withdrawal from social activity and argument recommended—and this cannot possibly help anyone as a philosophical lifestyle. The wu wei of Lao Tzu is a counter-intuitive, anti-philosophical attempt to mimic second approach wisdom—which will always be the ultimate rebellion against the (academic) first approach.

Here is more “wisdom” from Lao Tzu lest we be accused of being unfair:

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes— don’t resist them. Let things flow naturally forward.”

So all change should be accepted? Even bad changes? What does this mean exactly: “Let things flow…?” If this “flow” is natural in the sense that it is fundamental to the universe and inevitable, then one couldn’t stop it even if one wanted to, and if the “flow” can be stopped for some reason, wouldn’t one want to stop a “flow” that does harm? And if it does no harm, who would want to stop it, anyway? Is Lao Tzu saying that we should not act to change our environment at all? Is this practical? And if he is not saying this, what is he saying?

“Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.”

Again, this is basically saying the same thing: accept everything. Be “simple” is fine advice, but it is much easier to say “be simple” than to actually “return to the source of being,” which may or may not be “simple” for us, depending on how we experience “being” when we are with our kids at the shopping mall. “Be patient,” says the wise philosopher, with your “enemies,” even, we presume, as they are killing your friends. “Compassion” towards oneself is a good thing, we assume, and the same as being compassionate towards others, except those who are not compassionate towards us—our enemies, to whom, just like our friends, we show “patience,” and not “compassion.” It all gets very confusing after a while, when trying to piece together the nice qualities of wisdom.

Is it good to be reminded to be nice to oneself? No doubt it is. Or, to be told to show your enemies a certain amount of patience?  Or to be reminded to keep things simple? Of course it is. But aren’t these truisms, platitudes which grow on trees? And do they apply at all times? Can one really use ‘sayings’ such as these to figure out practical problems? I’m going to be “compassionate” towards myself and have this piece of cake. Wait. Or should I be “compassionate” towards myself by not having this piece of cake. Which is it? Wisdom that can mean anything is, in fact, nothing.

Lao Tzu is no-wisdom. It is the second approach. We may as well admit it. It is nothing but a Trojan Horse, a “philosophy” of the fox for use by the chickens.

There. We’ve said it. The horrible truth is revealed.  A “simple truth,” and “compassionate,” and we don’t care what anyone thinks, and we think nothing of it, and we give no thought to anything at all, as we move, like immense wisdom always does, with its accompanying shadows, into silence.













  1. Ra-Deon said,

    October 27, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    What was the motivation for this stripping of Lao Tzu’s “philosophy” ?

  2. thomasbrady said,

    October 27, 2014 at 6:14 pm


    The truth.


  3. noochinator said,

    January 9, 2015 at 1:51 pm


    Come live in a chamber of my heart, love,
    and let me live in a chamber of yours,
    then we’ll be nested inside each other alternately
    like an infinite series of Chinese boxes—
    you in me in you in me in you….

    And when we go to Chinatown
    for a series of Chinese dishes,
    you’ll choose the food that I like best.
    and I’ll pick the plates you’re fond of,
    then home to bed we’ll go in a Yellow Taxi,
    too full to fuck comfortably. And so

    while we wait for the chicken fat to be digested
    we’ll play Chinese checkers or read Li Po,
    and when we’re swollen only with lust and
    fondnesses, I’ll fondle you slowly from your
    toes to your nose, and you’ll burst into blossom
    like a China rose.

    But where are you hiding, my love, and what
    are you waiting for? I suppose you’re waiting for me
    to get a fucking job, and you’re waiting for me
    to wear a decent pair of shoes, to buy a new car,
    to brush and floss my teeth, to buy us a house.

    I agree, my love. I understand your needs
    completely. But couldn’t we compromise
    a bit?
    Isn’t that what love’s
    all about?
    So here’s the deal, dear: I’ll brush and floss my
    teeth, and get me a new pair of sneakers, and you,
    my love, can get the fucking job yourself, and buy
    the house and the car with quadraphonic speakers.
    Come here, my dear, come kiss me on the mouth.

    But, of course, I’ll die much sooner than you do,
    since I’ll be 20 or 30 years older than you,
    and you’ll weep at my funeral and probably faint;
    and you’ll wear a black dress for a year or so;
    and even though you’re a luscious young widow,
    you’ll never re-marry nor ever again have sex
    with another man, or a woman, or a vibrator;
    but you’ll sit all alone by our window,
    with your luscious long legs crossed securely;
    and you’ll read my poems and Li Po’s—
    tears in your eyes; and you’ll gaze wetly
    at the big photo of you and me
    which you paid 20 bucks for at Yuen Lui:
    and you’ll wait, heart swelling with hope,
    for death, that pimp wearing yellow shoes,
    who will take you to me in heaven, where
    I’ll be waiting for you, my love.

    And when you get there, I’ll show you the ropes.

    Harvey Goldner


  4. noochinator said,

    January 10, 2015 at 8:28 am


    Big bombs fell out of the
    sky. Big bombs fell all over
    the countryside. Chickens died,
    some cows, a few lucky people
    from down the road. Then the war,
    the exhilaration, was over.

    A new tax collector came by—
    different uniform, same fishy
    eyes. The craters made by the
    bombs filled with rainwater.
    Kids played in the bomb ponds
    until Cousin Bob, the smart one,

    came back from the big city
    and taught us how to raise
    catfish in the bomb ponds.
    His lovely wife, Bobette,
    gave us a dynamite
    recipe for hushpuppies.

    Now, when the new tax collector
    (different uniform, same fishy
    eyes) comes by on the first of
    every month to collect, we
    have a party—all the catfish
    and hushpuppies you can eat.

    So far, he hasn’t gotten too
    greedy, not yet. But if he does,
    Aunt Mary, the ancient one,
    still has left some of the
    good poison which she
    murdered the last one

    Harvey Goldner


  5. thomasbrady said,

    January 10, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    “Catfish in the bomb ponds.” Like that.

  6. noochinator said,

    April 22, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    “Everyone’s an Esoteric” by Jerry Weinberger

    from City Journal, 17 April 2015

    What do understanding Plato’s Republic, a Dear John Letter, and the late-modern Western zeitgeist have in common? The ability to see what’s unwritten in what we read: what resides “between the lines.” That this sounds preposterous, but really isn’t, is the subject of Arthur Melzer’s brilliant, pellucid, and meticulously researched new book: Philosophy Between the Lines: The Lost History of Esoteric Writing.

    Melzer, a professor (and former colleague of mine) at Michigan State, asks us to imagine getting a letter from a lover from whom we’ve been apart. It’s chatty and speaks of the “fun” we’ve had, mentions running into our chief rival for her affections, and ends “with love” rather than her usual “with all my love” or “with my enduring love.” She never says it’s over between us; but, between the lines, I’m toast. Only a fool could miss it.

    The same is true for Plato’s Republic. Early on in that dialogue, Socrates and the laconic, aristocratic Adeimantus discuss the principle that justice means a proper division of labor: everyone does what they do best, which is good for them and good for all. When Socrates asks Adeimantus if the best city will need shopkeepers, the notoriously terse lad comments at length that in rightly governed cities, shopkeepers will “usually” be people whose bodies are weakest and useless for other jobs. The key here is the off-handed “usually,” to which Socrates does not object. Without saying it outright, Plato has Adeimantus signal to us that keeping shop is good and just for the weak and good-for-nothing-else, but it’s not good or just for all shopkeepers. Between the lines we see that even in the best-governed city, some are forced into a job not good for them. It follows, then, that a perfectly just society isn’t possible. Most readers today, though not fools, would miss this altogether.

    In 1952, Leo Strauss published Persecution and the Art of Writing, in which he argued that from classical times until the nineteenth century almost all philosophers wrote between the lines. Mainstream academia dismissed the argument as ridiculous, revolting, or both. They said it was conspiratorial, elitist, impossible to prove, and subject to obscurantist nonsense. To this day, students of Strauss and students of those students remain marginalized in the mainstream academy. In Philosophy Between the Lines, Melzer makes an overwhelming case that Strauss was right about the fact of esotericism. He explains persuasively why and how the philosophers wrote as they did, why modern academics and intellectuals refuse to admit it, and why their reluctance explains the landscape of the late-modern frame of mind.

    To prove the fact of esoteric writing, Melzer compiles a virtual Mount Everest of explicit statements by thinkers about themselves or others that they wrote esoterically. There is so much of this evidence that the surplus had to be warehoused in a website
    (http://www.press.uchicago.edu/sites/melzer/melzer_appendix.pdf) starting with three pages of explicit comments by thinkers about the ancients’ esotericism. To name a few: Diderot, Condorcet, Montaigne, Vico, Hobbes, Rousseau, Leibnitz, Sir Francis Bacon, and Schelling. Then follows a chronological list of quotes by thinkers from Homer to Wittgenstein about esotericism in general or attributing it to themselves or others. This list is 92 pages long and includes Maimonides, Aquinas, Dante, Benjamin Franklin, and Goethe. Scholars who still reject the fact of esotericism will have to ignore this massive evidence or stamp their feet like Rumpelstiltskin.

    But why did philosophers write esoterically? In the ancient world, because political life was to philosophy as water is to oil. The political community depended on custom, tradition, and the poets’ tales about the gods, all exposed to danger by the cold light of philosophy. The philosophers thus wrote esoterically to defend themselves from persecution, to protect the political community from corruption, and also for the pedagogical purpose of causing the philosophically inclined to think for themselves and start from scratch, not from some teaching or system taken for granted. In medieval times these forms of esotericism were recognized and taken up by Maimonides and Alpharabius, and the earlier advent of Christianity did not change these motives for esotericism. There remained the fundamental opposition of reason and divine revelation, though philosophy did find a home in the Church in the form of scholasticism. From a later perspective, this handmaiden-ship of philosophy to religion was detrimental to philosophy more than it was an aid to religion.

    The turning point in the history of esotericism was the Enlightenment that began with Machiavelli, Bacon, Hobbes, and Descartes. All these thinkers wrote esoterically, as Melzer shows with powerful examples, but for a reason unknown to the ancients and the philosophers of medieval Judaism and Islam. The purpose now was neither protective, nor pedagogical, and only partly defensive, because it was a conspiratorial means for attacking throne and altar. Esotericism became the tactic for “rationalizing the world” and thus for eliminating the need for esotericism. This led ultimately to our contemporary obliviousness of that centuries-long practice.

    Melzer tells this story with finesse and attention to detail; anticipation of objections and polite but careful responsiveness to them; and powerful examples of esoteric writing techniques. Moreover, he shows in precise detail how contemporary resistance to esotericism is rooted in our contingent historical circumstances. We’re liberal democrats who believe in progress, free speech, and intellectual transparency (so does he). We Americans, unlike many other contemporary cultures, are given to openness, directness, and frankness in conversation. And so on. No wonder we have trouble taking seriously the different attitudes of earlier times and places and think of them as just like ours.

    But more important, at our historical moment we’re in the grip of a doctrine called historicism, which holds that nobody ever thinks the same thing. The mantra of our age, says Melzer, is Frederic Jameson’s “Always Historicize.” From kindergarten to the seminar room, everyone learns that what people think about human life—what’s good and bad, right and wrong, just and unjust—is relative to a particular and unique moment in history. The same goes for what other people used to think and write about such things: they always reflect the contingent and different attitudes or assumptions of past times. As regards “great thinkers,” the evidence is as plain as the nose on your face: one way or another they all ape the values or “narrative” of their particular time. Of course they do, Melzer argues: but that’s because most great thinkers wrote esoterically and hid behind the narrative of their time.

    As Strauss discovered, the Enlightenment conspiracy to rationalize the world aimed not simply to defang meddlesome prelates. Its thinkers, confronted with their inability to refute the claims of faith and revelation, turned to a “Napoleonic strategy” to laugh them out of the world and to use material prosperity and rational calculation to bludgeon the religious impulse. They wanted to force the harmony of theory and practice, philosophy and politics, by subordinating politics to philosophy. The rationalistic, Procrustean bed of the French Revolution, however, provoked the counter-Enlightenment, exemplified by Burke and the German Historical School that praised custom and local tradition over reason’s calculation. And later, Heidegger’s existentialism described the claims of such rational calculation as a massive attempt to hide from the groundlessness and especially the fatefulness of life. For Heidegger, genuine thinking required grasping resolutely the brute fact of what you are, not what you ought to be. The paradoxical result, says Melzer, was again to harmonize philosophy and politics, but this time by subordinating philosophy to the arbitrariness of political life.

    Hence our time’s philosophical doctrine, historicism. And hence the inevitable result: contemporary postmodernism that amounts to the humiliation of reason. In our postmodern mood all human experience is contingent and fated narrative rooted ultimately in unfathomable mystery. We now dwell in the victory of the poets over philosophy. Melzer doesn’t assume that historicism is true or false, but he points out cleverly that we like it today because we think it will make us all relax. If we can just get over reason’s pretension to truth, we’ll outgrow absolutism and become tolerant. Well, maybe, says Melzer. But we shouldn’t forget that Mussolini was an ardent proponent of relativism, “which infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.” When reason leaves the human stage, faith and power will take its place. Melzer’s deft account of how relativism can make us bullies is alone worth the price of the book.

    So too is his account of Strauss’s notion of the “experience” of history as “the cave beneath the cave.” There is no theoretical proof that historicism is true. The evidence, as presented especially by Heidegger, is the illuminating experience of the historicity of human life: the eye-opening and authentic experience of the groundlessness and fatefulness of human life. But is this experience genuine, or just an artifact of the history of modernity? Melzer shows that history to consist of a succession of thinkers each taking up where a predecessor left off. So when we look back, we see one thinker standing on the unexamined shoulders of another, whose assumptions then seem arbitrary and without foundations.

    For Plato, the “cave” meant the incoherent web of everyday opinions from which philosophy breaks free. We now live in a cave beneath that cave: we’re bound up in a web of theoretical systems that make everyday opinions one more step removed from critical observation. The way out of that cave, for Strauss, was the discovery of esotericism: it takes us from our abstract systems (“that’s just your meta-narrative”) to concrete political opinions (“a good person should pay her taxes”). “Classical rationalism” started from such humble opinions, and as it weighed and criticized them it found aspects of human experience that don’t change: the fundamental and enduring problems that emerge from examining the world of political and moral opinion in which all life is enmeshed.

    The modern Enlightenment project of Napoleonic conquest really was dogmatic, as Heidegger argued. But classical rationalism was not, as Heidegger failed to see. It was inquiring and skeptical and involved living both within the “mysterious nature of the whole” and the “fundamental and enduring problems” of human life. Classical rationalism held “that we are more familiar with the situation of man as man than with the ultimate causes of that situation.” For Strauss, says Melzer, nothing more than the permanence of the fundamental problems is needed to legitimize reason as classical philosophy understood it.

    In so concluding, Melzer leaves us with something of a puzzle. The ancients kept a secret; what that secret might be is another matter altogether. On that, Melzer leaves us on our own, as well he should. The following thought occurs: if philosophy properly understood involves more familiarity with the human situation than with that situation’s ultimate cause, what is a philosopher’s answer to the claim that God caused that situation in six days, and that Jesus redeemed it with his blood? Should the philosopher respond by just sticking with the familiar human situation? Is he not dogmatically and wishfully whistling in the dark? Melzer shows persuasively that, between the lines, Aristotle denied the immortality of the soul. But how, we wonder, could Aristotle have been so sure?

    Philosophy Between the Lines is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It’s important, profound, and readable, despite the weightiness of its subject. Buy it: you’ll be glad you did.

    • noochinator said,

      April 22, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      I guess if you don’t want to pay big fines,
      It’s best to write “between the lines”—
      I wonder if they dragged Thomas Hobbes into court
      For writing life’s “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.

      • thomasbrady said,

        April 22, 2015 at 9:28 pm

        I prefer, “What’s often thought, but ne’er so well expressed.” I have little patience for secret knowledge. Either you know or you don’t, or you have a pretty good guess. Just let us know. The political doesn’t hate the philosophical. Both either love or hate the truth, hating it from either fear, or ignorance. You don’t tell a child, “life is cruel.” Or you do. Whether or not you do has nothing to do with whether “life is cruel” is true, or not. Maybe life is cruel, maybe it isn’t. The truth can be approximate in social terms, but not in mathematical terms. We have to distinguish between types of truth.

        • noochinator said,

          April 23, 2015 at 9:06 am

          “The political doesn’t hate the philosophical.”

          The ruler (i.e., “the political”) hates the philosopher if the philosopher’s writings threaten the ruler’s power. And the mob (another word for “the political”) hates the philosopher who challenges their deeply-held beliefs.

          It’s not a matter of “secret knowledge” for its own sake — it’s a matter of ensuring one’s safety so one doesn’t end up tarred and feathered (which isn’t as funny and cute as grade schools teach):


          • thomasbrady said,

            April 23, 2015 at 11:59 am

            Great philosophy does not “threaten the ruler’s power.” Only another kind of politics can “threaten” a “ruler.” I guess where I’m coming from is Socrates, my favorite philosopher, who thought philosophy and politics the same. I get it that “rulers” who rule with an iron fist don’t like words that “threaten” their iron fist rule, but those “words” are not necessarily philosophy, (we could call those words, “political”—the whole philosophy/politics dichotomy is what I’m questioning) and yes, if you are the court poet and you don’t like your ruler, you will hide the meaning in your poem when you find fault with the ruler. But that’s not really “secret knowledge,” that’s just cleverness, or, perhaps,metaphor? and one could say this belongs to “poetry,” or even just clever rhetoric that serves a specific purpose for a specific reason—which is not how I would define philosophy or secret knowledge. On a broader level, one could equate the Truth with the Sun and it will damage our eyes if we look at it too directly—but this could apply in places that have nothing to do with a “ruler” cutting off your head.

  7. noochinator said,

    February 12, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    From Confessions of a Philosopher by Bryan Magee:

    “There are many different ways in which philosophy can be approached seriously, but two in particular seem to be the commonest. Some people come to it seeking revelation, a new understanding of reality: what they are after is illumination, new insight, new truth. Others do not expect to get these things from philosophy: they derive their view of the way things are from other sources, such as common sense, or science, or religion, or a mixture of all three (but there are other sources too). What such people are seeking from philosophy is clarification, and perhaps justification, of what are already some of their most important beliefs. To such people analytic philosophy, whose central activity is the elucidation of concepts, is likely to have special appeal. But I am a person of the first sort: I come to philosophy in the hope of revelations about how things are. Analysis is interesting enough at a subordinate level, and I have devoted quite a lot of time to it, but as a conception of philosophy it is hopelessly inadequate, above all because no problems of substance are soluble by it. The solution of important and interesting problems always calls for new ideas, new explanatory theories, and it is for these, not for analysis, that we look to philosophers of genius. Many are the reliable professionals who can carry out a workmanlike analysis of any given set of arguments or concepts: all that this task requires, over and above a certain minimum level of professional competence, is time, concentration, thoroughness and assiduity. It is certainly hard work, and those who can bring to it an extra flair and a deeper than ordinary level of penetration make personal reputations. But the difference between doing this and producing new ideas is like the difference between being a musicologist and being a composer.”


  8. February 13, 2017 at 1:23 am

    “He who speaks does not know.
    He who knows does not speak.”

    Lao tzu

    • thomasbrady said,

      February 13, 2017 at 4:05 pm

      Socrates had a version of this, which was more like, ‘he who does not know writes. He who knows speaks against writing.’ Socrates said the living argument was what mattered, not fortune cookie ‘wisdom’ or the ‘wisdom’ of the epigram. The logos = living speech. Not dead words.

      • February 13, 2017 at 6:18 pm

        That was just Greek politics at the time. Lao tzu’s comment was ontological, that is, addressing the meaning of existence

        • thomasbrady said,

          February 13, 2017 at 10:14 pm

          Unfortunately, everything is political, or practical, especially “wisdom.” Politically and practically speaking, Lao Tzu’s formula expresses the ultimate form of tyranny and ‘might makes right.’ The meaning of existence is not something Lao Tzu can say—by his own admission.

  9. February 13, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    I believe that you have confused Lao tzu with Confucius, the ‘pro-government’ philosopher.

  10. February 13, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    I would also add that pretty much everything Lao tzu said has been confirmed by Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein and Quantum Physics.
    Talk about being ahead of your time!

  11. thomasbrady said,

    February 14, 2017 at 11:51 am

    Gary, I’m not pigeon-holing various philosophers. I’m imposing the ultimate truth test on Lao Tzu. He isn’t allowed special treatment. His wisdom is fraudulent. Socially, logically, scientifically, it falls to pieces. The universe is governed. Lao Tzu doesn’t govern it. Far from it. He’s a con artist. You are his minister, making excuses for his lapses. Your worshiping zeal. It’s touching.

  12. February 14, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    Could you provide an example of this “fraudulent wisdom”?

    • thomasbrady said,

      February 14, 2017 at 8:17 pm

      Gary, have you read the Scarriet article at the top of the thread. I refute a number of Lao Tzu sayings.

  13. February 14, 2017 at 11:18 pm

    Yes, I read your essay. It brings to mind the following:

    “A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.”

    – William Blake

    • thomasbrady said,

      February 15, 2017 at 3:27 pm

      To say wisdom is wise and foolishness is foolish is really not saying very much. I try not to walk into trees. Trees have many uses. There are many kinds of trees. Maybe you need to read my essay again, Gary. 🙂

      • February 15, 2017 at 6:49 pm

        Oak-kay. I willow. Don’t pine for me though.

        • February 16, 2017 at 12:09 am

          I was just trying to spruce up the comments but maple I went too fir. I didn’t mean to be a birch. Sometimes I can be a real ash but that’s why I always turn to my elders. Go fig-ure.

          • thomasbrady said,

            February 16, 2017 at 12:18 am

            Gary, I can’t see the florist for the trees!

            • noochinator said,

              February 16, 2017 at 1:10 am

              Good to see no resentments arbored!

              • February 16, 2017 at 2:55 am

                Tom and I bark at each other a lot but we have similar roots so we tend to branch out and leaf each other in peace.

  14. February 16, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    Low two said follow the way
    to heaven – not t’other way
    and if t’other way you walk
    be carefull how you talk;

    for all men fall inside their brain
    if too much ego there remain
    and each inside his self made pit
    argue about the wallpaper in it.

    the problem is the wallpaper, see
    not low two, who’s wallpaper-free;
    yet it was not low two – heraclitis, i recall
    taught me how to piss through the wall
    without a single dripping bit
    of damp walpaper to interfere with it.

    Now this little poem is done
    I piss on it and have my fun
    knowing that to piss is free
    please don’t think I piss on thee
    or else your wallpaper soon will see.

    Adam Eye of Light

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