07-04-10

Vivere si rectè nescis ...

"Vivere si rectè nescis, decede peritis;
Lusisti satis, edisti satis atque bibisti;
Tempus abire tibi est, ne potum largius aequo
Rideat et pulset lasciva decentius aetas;"

Horatius as quoted by M. de Montaigne in: Essais II, Editions Gallimard, 1965, Chapitre XII (Apologie de Raimond Sebond), p. 213.

(amateuristic English translation below)


For lovers of Latin (all dead languages will be categorized under Montaigne - by the way - because he is the first of the individual thinkers that broke free from thinking himself an instantiation of something grander, & the first therefore to take classical texts and derive from them the first seeds of individuality that were put there in the inspired moments of a few individuals, ready to be harvested by the great - but not Great! - Michel who started this great cross-fertilization of independence, that allows me to do what I pretty well damn please to do, without worrying in which scheme it's fitting).

I wanted to talk about the essential differences between absolutes and universals. I also wanted to take the first book, and quote, that presented itself (for example, as in the present case, something with a piece of paper sticking out, meaning I marked it, on top of my traditional earmarking, for urgent use). Finally, I wanted to get 'real' on some stuff. All of this is an inside joke that I can only hope is not scaring away a non-insider; at least not more than my strenuous English is already scaring them.

The wish not to live beyond one's reasonable time is an universal. The requirements to live until such time as 'one is called' is the absolute. The difference between the 2 is the reality that is assigned to whatever it may be 'to live'.

I (try to) explain.

Universals are things that, on reflection, cannot but be true. Do not unto others what you wouldn't have done unto you, is one. There is no point in living when there is no point in living anymore, is another. You can only have a conversation when there's a certain somebody to talk to, is maybe a more obvious one. These things all feel like tautologies but they are not quite that. One of the reasons they are not is that there is a certain 'feel' to it - exactly the same type of 'feel' there is to whether or not such and such a sentence is grammatical or not. These are cases of truths that emerge in a way like icebergs: suddenly you see them and once seen they are unavoidable.

Their truth is not a matter of control; not a matter of revelation; but a matter of this common sense that is always an evolving common sense, but that is never common sense that can go back to accepting for instance that people are sentenced to death or left to their own devices when sick. Their truth is in fact a matter of fact - as more people have more visibility more of these icebergs are spotted. & once spotted their presence is communicated and then they are known. Not Forever with F - but forever with f - which is to all extents and purposes more or less as long a time period - but admits the possibility of all those that have spotted the iceberg & all those that they communicated with (& so on & so forth) to have perished.

That are universals for you. They include the knowledge of all predecessors; they're the material of which all future men will AT LEAST be made of.

Absolutes are different. Absolutes are summaries of what is known up to some point and then extrapolated as if nothing new can come up, ever, anywhere. Intrinsically it is a purely functional purpose that absolutes have; it is the purpose of custome, and of tradition; the purpose of standardizing somewhat the way people live together for the ordering of society and all that good stuff. That is why there is a sense that they should be adhered to absolutely. Indeed, admitting there is room for divergences is the same as not bothering at all; and organizing purely dictatorially.

There is nothing too wrong about absolutes and the moralizing that goes with it. The common sense is to heed absolutes with which your parents try to indoctrinate you if only to avoid unnecessary complexities.

The problem comes when the absolute is taken absolutely. Take life & euthanasia & abortion & (assisted) suicide and all that. For sure all in this list is problematic. But it is not the solution (even if many think it is The Solution) to say life is sacred, & that that is absolutely true. It is not and everybody in his or her right mind knows this. It is a matter of situation and circumstance and in the end: if life is not worth living - it is not worth living anymore.

The thing is: life is n't this Infinite Eternal real ontological thing. Life is just a word in use to denote a collection of events of a certain nature, where that nature cannot be grasped in any direct non-verbal way. Life is just something that comes and goes. It is not much more (however romantic we may be inclined, it is not). We don't have to make A Big Deal out of it.

I know I am bordering once again on the mystic but let me point out that the motto that 'if life isn't worth living - it is not worth living anymore' does not give a fiat for a fully random way of stopping life. It doesn't, at all - just as with I. Kant's categorical imperative it is a hovering sentence that makes clear that life is not an absolute but it doesn't say when life is not worth living anymore. The latter is something that is to be discussed and is part of a Rawlsian overlapping consensus (just as, by the way, it is not determined by the categorical imperative - what you would not have done unto yourself if yourself would have committed something you would feel you should not have been committing).

Pff. Tired. Work in Progress.


"If you don't know how to live well, leave your place to those who do;
you have fooled around enough, eaten enough and have drunk enough;
time for you to withdraw for fear of having drank more than reasonable and in so doing,
of becoming the laughing stock of the young, for whom cheerfulnes is more becoming."


Whilst writing this I was listening to nothing at all - but not in complete silence as there are always some noises where I live; a fact that is no longer disturbing to me and instead is of some comfort nowadays.

 

23:12 Gepost door Guido Nius in Muziek | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: optimism, montaigne, right to die, universals, decadence |  Facebook |