March 18, 2013

Out of the same spirit

There's an old joke about a Zen master walking up to a hot dog stand and saying "Make me one with everything." I think Ralph Waldo Emerson would take his hot dogs that way too, metaphorically speaking.

I've been blogging lately about Emerson and his ideas and at the moment I'm on his Harvard Divinity School Address. In it, among other things, he embraces a kind of cosmic idealistic monism (as in all is one) and thus seems to suffer from the kind of over optimism that characterizes such world views.

Here he lays it out:

...the world is not the product of manifold power  but of one will, of one mind; and that one mind is everywhere active, in each ray of the star, in each wavelet of the pool; and whatever opposes that will is everywhere balked and baffled, because things are made so, and not otherwise.
He adopts a position on evil that goes back to St. Augustine and Plato, which views being as such as good and evil as merely the absence of good:

Good is positive. Evil is merely privative, not absolute: it is like cold which is the privation of heat. All evil is so much death or nonentity. Benevolence is absolute and real. So much benevolence as a man hath, so much life hath he. For all things proceed out of this same spirit, which is differently named love, justice, temperance, in different applications, just as the ocean receives different names no the several shores which it washes. All things proceed out of the same spirit, and all things conspire with it. Whilst a man seeks good ends, he is strong by the whole strength of nature. In so far as he roves from these ends, he bereaves himself of power, of auxiliaries;  his being shrinks out of all remote channels, he become less and less, a mote, a point, until absolute badness is absolute death.
Let those who can believe it. As far as I can, some of those motes and points can do quite a bit of damage.

10 YEARS OUT. Here's Krugman on the Iraq War anniversary.

WAR ON COAL? Here's another view.

ANIMAL RESURRECTIONS. Given cloning and all, which extinct animals would you bring back?


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