Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A few of my favorite things.................

1.   In his essay, Male Nipples and Clitoral Ripples, Stephen Jay Gould quotes the Marquis de Condorcet,  "The perfectibility of man is really boundless. . . . It has not other limit than the duration of the globe where nature has set us."  Wondering abound Condorcet and that quote, a quick check with the gnomes at Google was made, eventually leading me to John Passmore's 1969 essay, The Perfectibility of  Man.   Passmore's essay runs us through the entire encyclopedia of philosophers before ultimately concluding that the improvement of man is possible, even desirable; perfectibility—not so much.

"Men, almost certainly, are capable of more than they have ever so far achieved. But what they achieve, or so I have suggested, will be a consequence of their remaining anxious, passionate, discontented human beings. To attempt, in the quest for perfection, to raise men above that level is to court disaster; there is no level above it, there is only a level below it. "

2.  Bertrand Russell's essay, Ideas That Have Helped Mankind.

"Democracy was invented as a device for reconciling government with liberty. It is clear that government is necessary if anything worthy to be called civilization is to exist, but all history shows that any set of men entrusted with power over another set will abuse their power if they can do so with impunity. Democracy is intended to make men's tenure of power temporary and dependent upon popular approval. In so far as it achieves this it prevents the worst abuses of power." 

3.  Ninety years ago yesterday, Martin Luther King, Jr. was born.  One forgets how young he was when he was assassinated.  King's Letter From Birmingham Jail is likely one of the most amazing essays you will ever read:

You may well ask, "Why direct action, why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. I just referred to the creation of tension as a part of the work of the nonviolent resister. This may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly worked and preached against violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need of having nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. So, the purpose of direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. We therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

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