Posts Tagged 'Nietzsche'

Philosophy and Shame

It’s been a very philosophical week.

Starting with Yom Kippur when we debated (sort of) the existence of God.  Concluding the debate and swooning from our self-imposed fast, we agreed that there was indeed a God, albeit a pretty powerless one.  Recent events including another dozen people gunned down by a maniac (ho hum), the inexplicable death of a twenty-six year old boy who had just begun to live, and epic Colorado floods that drowned innocents, made it impossible to believe that someone was micromanaging our lives.  Unless it was a very angry, vengeful God.

No, I sort of preferred the Rabbi’s definition that said there was something inexplicable, call it God if you must, that had provided us with a moral framework accompanied by the free will to choose either good or evil.  Topped off with a generous helping of universal chaos that capriciously allowed some to live and some to die.  And then stood back and watched us flounder.

We’ve also been attending an adult education program focused on Friedrich Nietzsche, that nineteenth century philosopher who famously said, “A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything”.   After stumbling through four two-hour sessions, I’m not sure that I’m looking forward to the next four.

Professor Garlington has done his best to beat Nietzsche’s philosophy into my head without much success.  It’s sort of like sitting through a Shakespearean performance surrounded by people who seem to understand every word while I, in my cocoon, wonder what all the fuss is about.  Nietzsche may have artfully described my confusion when he said, “You have your way. I have my way.  As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”  Right.

Just in case I hadn’t enough to scratch my head about, I started reading Jim Holt’s book, Why Does the World Exist?  Wondering why there is something instead of nothing, Holt visits a number of philosophers, presents a mind-numbing array of mathematical theorems and posits various theories including the religious, ontological and scientific.  To what end, I’m not sure.  As one of his notable interviewees, the eminent octogenarian philosopher of science, Adolph Grunbaum insightfully said, “who cares”.   Now that’s a man I can relate to.

Holt’s own philosophy of who or what created this mess goes something like this, “My own position is that the universe was created by a being that is 100 percent malevolent but only 80 percent effective.”

So I figured that with all this behind me I could handle just about anything.  Fool that I am.  I forgot about the United States House of Representatives.  Or as some people call it The Divine Comedy.  Dante’s depiction of the nine circles of hell through which we must progress is analogical to the House’s procession through some of the most amazing steps leading inexorably to self-immolation.

To make an example of the surfer dude who bought a lobster with his food stamps and the other guy who had the nerve to use his welfare check to bet on the ponies, the House without blinking removed the food stamp program for three million other supposed malingerers, cheats and presumed supporters of the Affordable Care program.  No matter, as the Congressional Budget Office noted this week, that the disparity between the haves and have-nots has continued to grow despite the re-emergence of Wall Street and the continued growth of banks “too big to fail.”

And just to make sure that the rest of America would get their message, the House voted for the forty-first time to abolish Obamacare.  They also made their consent to continue operating the rest of the United States government contingent on defunding Obamacare, thereby hopefully consigning it to the dustbin of history.  Take that, you folks who thought pre-existing conditions were dead.

That display of Tea Party inspired pique warrants reiteration of this Nietzsche quote, “There are horrible people who, instead of solving a problem, tangle it up and make it harder to solve for anyone who wants to deal with it. Whoever does not know how to hit the nail on the head should be asked not to hit it at all.”

But in spite of everything,  there was a ray of hope as the refreshing and uncomplicated  Pope Francis said something like “Quit bashing gays and don’t be so consumed with what people are doing in their bedrooms.  There’s bigger fish to fry.”  Maybe next week he’ll say something equally understandable to the U.S. House like “Have you no shame?”



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