, ,

Last year this blog posted 128 philosophers under the rubric – Philosophers Squared Off and that means to me — “To assume a fighting stance and be prepared to fight for a philosophical idea.” The quotes in each post are from the internet and can be sourced with a web search. Links here are for a search of Probaway philosophers squared off, and for reference here is Wikipedia’s long list of philosophers. Also, see the Index list below but in Alphabetical Order.

That was a terrific task, but it changed my life for the better because I became more exposed to the good sense of the Classic Greeks and Romans. I had read Marcus Aurelius in my late teens, but little of the others. My deeper search into philosophy began in my late twenties with a multiple reading of H. L. Mencken’s A New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles from Ancient and Modern Sources, searching for authors who manifest Wisdom, defined as Common Sense to an Uncommon Degree. That aimed my mind into a search for testable, verifiable reality. I created some interesting things because of that, including the book Tao and War and a couple of theories of human maturity including Paths to Maturity, the Probaway Happiness Scale, the Adverse Childhood Experience versus Positive Childhood Experience Chart, and others.

Now I am exploring the spiritual world, and that is risky. Simply looking into that extrasensory reality mostly destroyed Alfred Russel Wallace‘s scientific career, and even brought the Scientific American some lasting opprobrium. What I intend to do is try to find the substance that makes this subject so attractive to so many people. Early on in this process it seems reasonable to explore what is magical about poetry. The strange thing about poetry is its meme like lasting power, even though many of the most famous lines are basically nonsense.

John Keats English poet

John Keats’ portrait done in 1819, near the time he was writing Ode on a Grecian Urn.

The English Romantic poet John Keats in May 1819 wrote in Ode on a Grecian Urn:

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”  

That is clearly pure foolishness, and yet is evocative and carries many a mind away into dreamy ecstasies. Truth and beauty are not the same things, even though truth is often beautiful, and sometimes beauty is truthful, but not always. Each of these terms can modify the other but asserting that they are blended into one entity destroys both of their defining properties. And, to underline the absurdity, to assert this is all ye need to know is inapplicable to any living thing. Following the advice of these famous lines is a short path to personal destruction. Each of the three assertions is false. Beauty is truth, truth beauty is false; that is all Ye know on earth is false; that is all ye need to know is false. It would appear obvious that tacking three false statements together does not make a profound truth.

It has been said that “The opposite of a great truth is often a great truth,” but where has it been said that stringing false statements together makes true statements? And yet the world is awash in just this sort of rhetoric. It must be explored. I consider this a form of exploring the unknown unknowns.

“The truth is out there!” is a false statement, because truth is a mental construct about something, and therefore it isn’t out there it’s in one’s mind.