Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Edward Feser discusses John Leslie and Robert Lawrence Kuhn's The Mystery of Existence: Why Is There Anything At All?

The final episode of James Joyce's Ulysses is compromised of a long, unpunctuated monologue written using the stream of consciousness technique. Molly lies in the bed next to her husband, and through the long-winded course of the soliloquy her thoughts turn to the day Bloom proposed to her.

Joyce's prose in Ulyssess makes for a daunting read. I find much of the book to be unreadable, I confess, but this famous ending passage, the last fifty lines or so of the chapter, stands out for its beautiful lyricism. The best way to enjoy it is to simultaneously listen to the audio rendition as you read the words. This will help you tap into the natural flow of thoughts contained therein, and the experience will be something hard to forget.

"God of heaven theres nothing like nature the wild mountains then the sea and the waves rushing then the beautiful country with the fields of oats and wheat and all kinds of things and all the fine cattle going about that would do your heart good to see rivers and lakes and flowers all sorts of shapes and smells and colours springing up even out of the ditches primroses and violets nature it is as for them saying theres no God I wouldnt give a snap of my two fingers for all their learning why dont they go and create something I often asked him atheists or whatever they call themselves go and wash the cobbles off themselves first then they go howling for the priest and they dying and why why because theyre afraid of hell on account of their bad conscience ah yes I know them well who was the first person in the universe before there was anybody that made it all who ah that they dont know neither do I so there you are they might as well try to stop the sun from rising tomorrow the sun shines for you he said the day we were lying among the rhododendrons on Howth head in the grey tweed suit and his straw hat the day I got him to propose to me yes first I gave him the bit of seedcake out of my mouth and it was leapyear like now yes 16 years ago my God after that long kiss I near lost my breath yes he said I was a flower of the mountain yes so we are flowers all a womans body yes that was one true thing he said in his life and the sun shines for you today yes that was why I liked him because I saw he understood or felt what a woman is and I knew I could always get round him and I gave him all the pleasure I could leading him on till he asked me to say yes and I wouldnt answer first only looked out over the sea and the sky I was thinking of so many things he didnt know of Mulvey and Mr Stanhope and Hester and father and old captain Groves and the sailors playing all birds fly and I say stoop and washing up dishes they called it on the pier and the sentry in front of the governors house with the thing round his white helmet poor devil half roasted and the Spanish girls laughing in their shawls and their tall combs and the auctions in the morning the Greeks and the jews and the Arabs and the devil knows who else from all the ends of Europe and Duke street and the fowl market all clucking outside Larby Sharons and the poor donkeys slipping half asleep and the vague fellows in the cloaks asleep in the shade on the steps and the big wheels of the carts of the bulls and the old castle thousands of years old yes and those handsome Moors all in white and turbans like kings asking you to sit down in their little bit of a shop and Ronda with the old windows of the posadas 2 glancing eyes a lattice hid for her lover to kiss the iron and the wineshops half open at night and the castanets and the night we missed the boat at Algeciras the watchman going about serene with his lamp and O that awful deepdown torrent O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and the pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes." (James Joyce, Ulysses)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Most of what we read ultimately ends up forgotten. We retain vague impressions of the books, primarily how we felt when we read them and what we thought of them. The actual content fades away, except for a few passages here and there that made an impression on us for one reason or another. Tomes of hundreds of pages, and in the end, we are left with a handful of paraphrased quotations and a blurry summary shorter than Wikipedia's synopsis, and sometimes not even that. 'What futility!' one imagines. Even for the books that changed our lives, there is little that can be recalled. And yet, one hopes, some part of those books remains in us, at least the better ones, woven into our being, setting the stage for our beliefs and biases. Long forgotten passages lurking in our minds like shadowy whisperers, putting words in our mouths that we may never come to speak otherwise.

Friday, July 19, 2013

“Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you? Do you think I am an automaton?—a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!—I have as much soul as you,—and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh;—it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal,—as we are!”

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"We are all vulnerable to confabulation when we are asked why have a certain attitude, such as a moral judgement, a preference, or an emotional reaction. We make up a reason for it that seems plausible but does not track the causal mechanisms responsible for the formation of that attitude."

Lisa Bortolotti, Confabulatory explanations

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

During a conversation Iris interpreted the denial of obligation to realize values as a form of Sartrean bad faith, and I share...

Iris: The point here is that if one wants meaning, one is obligated to realize these values because of this interdependent relationship. The best thing is that Frankl also indicates the possibility of such a realization. His life is a good example. So Frankl's assertion about this obligation makes total sense. Not being under this obligation only reflects a Sartrean 'bad faith'. It is bad faith in a measure that if a possibility of finding meaning is offered, it will be impossible to find a strong and valid reason to deny this possibility - except again for having this bad faith. 


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