"It is...rather an over-simplified idea that 'to succeed' is to bear fruit, and therefore to give proof of the fact that psychologically and morally you are not a failure. This is a very old illusion, already denounced by Socrates: mistaking external success, which depends on a great many ingredients extraneous to ethical life -- good connections, cleverness, good luck, ruthlessness, and so forth -- for genuine 'success' in the metaphysical sense which consists in having, as Socrates said, a 'good and beautiful soul'."
– Jacques Maritain, Reflections On America
"The difference between science and theology, as I understand it, is one over whether you see the world as a gift or not; and you cannot resolve this just by inspecting the thing, any more than you can deduce from examining a porcelain vase that it is a wedding present."
– Terry Eagleton, Reason, Faith and Revolution
"Objective judgements are necessarily unjust at a certain point. (1) Because they can never be entirely objective (impersonal); (2) because they do not consider the person from the inside, identifying with them like a novelist or poet, and so unaware of essential factors, that can only be intuited, through empathy. (In this sense, empathy and love perhaps attain another objectivity, of a non-scientific kind, since it is not subject to precise verification, but higher, more profound, more alive. The difference between the truth of the work of art and that of the document.)"
– Victor Serge, Notebooks
"Freud's idea: In madness the lock is not destroyed, only altered; the old key can no longer unlock it, but it could be opened by a differently constructed key."
– Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value
"Something in us wishes to remain a child,” Jung observed, “to be unconscious or, at most, conscious only of the ego; to reject everything strange, or else subject it to our will; to do nothing, or else indulge our own craving for pleasure or power."
In social situations people often steer the conversation away from others and toward themselves. According to the sociologist Charles Derber, there is one easy way to gauge how far in the direction of conversational narcissism one has ventured, and that is to weigh what he calls the “shift-response” and the “support-response.”
“A revolutionary age is an age of action,” Kierkegaard wrote. “The present age is an age of advertisement, or an age of publicity: nothing happens, but there is instant publicity about it.” Numerous thinkers have shared or expanded upon this thought. “The non-event is not when nothing happens,” Jean Baudrillard argued in one of his late works. “It is, rather, the realm of perpetual change, of a ceaseless updating, of an incessant succession in real time, which produces this general equivalence, this indifference, this banality that characterizes the zero degree of the event.”
“The holy man, the initiate, withdraws not only from the temptations of worldly action; he withdraws from speech,” George Steiner writes in Language and Silence. “His retreat into the mountain cave or monastic cell is the outward gesture of his silence. Even those who are only novices on this arduous road are taught to distrust the veil of language, to break through it to the more real...Language can only deal meaningfully with a special, restricted segment of reality. The rest, and it is presumably the much larger part, is silence."
"Life is at the start a chaos in which one is lost. The individual suspects this, but he is frightened at finding himself face to face with this terrible reality, and tries to cover it over with a curtain of fantasy, where everything is clear. It does not worry him that his 'ideas' are not true, he uses them as trenches for the defence of his existence, as scarecrows to frighten away reality.
"The man with the clear head is the man who frees himself from those fantastic 'ideas' and looks life in the face, realizes that everything in it is problematic, and feels himself lost. As this is the simple truth -- that to live is to feel oneself lost -- he who accepts it has already begun to find himself, to be on firm ground. Instinctively, as do the shipwrecked, he will look round for something to which to cling, and that tragic, ruthless glance, absolutely sincere, because it is a question of his salvation, will cause him to bring order into the chaos of his life. These are the only genuine ideas; the ideas of the shipwrecked. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce. He who does not really feel himself lost, is lost without remission; that is to say, he never finds himself, never comes up against his own reality."
Henry David Thoreau, Walden: "There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers. Yet it is admirable to profess because it was once admirable to live. To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live, according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically. The success of great scholars and thinkers is commonly a courtier-like success, not kingly, not manly. They make shift to live merely by conformity, practically as their fathers did, and are in no sense the progenitors of a nobler race of men."
Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus & Other Essays: "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest -- whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories -- comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer...Beginning to think is beginning to be undermined. Society has but little connection with such beginnings. The worm is in man's heart. That is where it must be sought. One must follow and understand this fatal game that leads from lucidity in the face of existence to flight from light."
Bertrand Russell, Wisdom of the West: "In itself philosophy sets out neither to solve our troubles nor to save our souls. It is, as the Greeks put it, a kind of sightseeing adventure undertaken for its own sake. There is thus in principle no questions of dogma, or rites, or sacred entities of any kind, even though individual philosophers may of course turn out to be stubbornly dogmatic. There are indeed two attitudes that might be adopted towards the unknown. One is to accept the pronouncements of people who say they know, on the basis of books, mysteries or other sources of inspiration. The other way is to go out and look for oneself, and this is the way of science and philosophy."
The following is an excerpt from Marjorie Grene's essay "Martin Heidegger" in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. passed away in March 2009; she wrote some two dozen books, among which are works on Sartre and Heidegger.
The "darkening of the world" is Heidegger's constant theme. So, for example, in Holzwege ("Woodpaths," 1950), he tells us that we live in the age of research, of the planned, systematic coordination of intellectual tasks. And what sort of tasks can be planned and coordinated? Neat, limited, manageable tasks -- tasks, primarily, that demand inventiveness rather than understanding, tasks for engineering know-how rather than theoretical insight. Heidegger draws no line between pure and applied science. Science for him is research, and research is a procedure for solving well-packaged problems. Such problems are, in general, those of manufacture, of inventing new and better gadgets. According to Heidegger, das Herstellbare, the collection of gadgets, is what we are after; that is what specialization, the rigid departmental structure of expertise in our society, amounts to. And all this vast proliferation of technical skills nevertheless has its inner unity -- that is, its historical and metaphysical unity. It had to happen this way. It had to happen this way because we are fallen out of Being. We are more concerned with beings, from genes to space ships, than with our true calling, which is to be shepherds and watchers of Being. So it is that we are lost, and Being itself has become a haze and an error -- nothing.