Saturday, March 29, 2008

Off The Daily Growler Office Floor

Notes From an Aboveground

--From a Mercedes commercial: "We can't afford anything less than a true Mercedes-Benz." Mr. Ed: We've thought on that for a minute or two--what the hell does that mean? What is a "false" Mercedes-Benz?

--Louise Hay is 81 years old. She founded the Hay Press. Her latest book is You Can Heal Your Life. She doesn't believe in any Jehovah-Gyros or Allahs, nope, she believes only in herself--she heals herself and not some god or gods or wailing and gnashing of teeth. Her "god" is "universal energy," which she preaches is in abundance all around you day-in day-out. You want to heal yourself, then grab a handful or a bellyful or fill your lungs with universal energy and there you go off on a trip towards the healing zone. "Live in the moment," Louise says. Which means that is one of the principles of The Daily Growler way of life--"There is only the NOW; otherwise there is NADA, and nada is nothing and nothing is nothing. In the NOW, all is all, and nothing has been and will be but isn't in the NOW." Mr. Ed: Some of us think Louise Hay is a kook though we recognize her genius in putting together a self-help book publishing company that is now worth a billion bucks--this book of hers is on the NYTimes bestseller list for it's second time; it's first time was in 1972 when it was on the NYT list for 13 weeks; this time her book has been on the NYT list for 14 weeks (I'm paraphrasing so my numbers may be 1 or 2 off), which means her book has been at the top of the NYT bestseller list for a combined 26-year-separated 27 weeks--perhaps a modern-day bestselling record! This one book has made old Louise a very rich babe--and she doesn't look half bad for an 81 year old; I wouldn't kick her out of my stall, but then I'm a editing-horse who's not too particular about whose in his stall, as long as it isn't another editing-horse!

--the old Brit doctor on the PBS Atheist program is pretty cool--especially in his using terms like "thoughtless disbelief" based on Descartes's dual-mind theory (faith versus doubt).

--Tennessee Williams said, "God is a senile delinquent."

--the old Brit doctor: "Science is a corrosive against religion." Mr. Ed: Didn't science emerge out of religions?

--Lord Byron was an Atheist. What else?

--George Herbert W. Bush while president said if you didn't believe in God you didn't deserve US citizenship. Mr. Ed: Old Pappy Bush. Don't you figure the god he believes in is himself and his family?

--Democritus--All matter is particles (atoms). Existence has existed forever; therefore there is no reason for earth to be created.

--"Observations are more valuable than revelations."

--Lord Herbert of Cherbury--here is a bit about Lord Herbert's (a notorious womanizer, by the way) philosophy of truth--this piece was written by Anonymous--though not The Daily Growler's Anonymous, one of our favorite commenters.

The distinction between mind and body had not yet been sharpened and turned into antagonism by the Cartesian dualism. Man is a complex of mind and body, and, according to Herbert, all that is passive in him is body (De Veritate, 3rd ed., p. 72). -- though body itself is not purely passive. Mind, however, is never passive. It acts but is not acted upon (ibid. p. 95). Things do not act upon it but are put within the sphere of its operation (ibid. p. 95). Nevertheless, it requires an occasion, or the presence of objects, to awaken its activity, even in its highest operations (ibid. p. 91). Herbert's expressions are not quite consistent, for this awakening of mental activity is itself an effect upon mind; but perhaps he might have defended his doctrine by appealing to the harmony which exists between faculty and object. For in this lies his fundamental conception -- different alike from the traditional view that cognition must conform to objects, and from the Kantian view that objects must conform to cognition. the mental faculty supplies a form analogous to the object as it exists (ibid. p. 97); the object, again,, neither undergoes an alteration of nature nor produces one, but only enters, as it were, into the faculty's range of view. The whole process is only intelligible on the supposition of a harmony between the world and the human mind. In this harmony the human body, fashioned out of the material of the external world and containing the sense-apparatus which lead to the "inner court" of consciousness, forms the bond of union.

For more:

--More about Herbert of Cherbury, the poet George Herbert's brother:
Edward, Lord Herbert of Chirbury   (1582/3-1648)
by John Butler

Edward Herbert was born at Eyton, Shropshire, on March 3, 1582, although some scholars favour 1583 as his birthdate. He was the eldest son of Richard Herbert (c.1554-96), Sheriff of Montgomeryshire and an MP, and Magdalen Herbert (later Lady Danvers), the patron of John Donne and other literary figures. He was the elder brother of the poet George Herbert (1593-1633) and of Sir Henry Herbert (1591-1675), the Master of the King's Revels, to mention only two of his nine siblings. He was largely educated at home, but as a boy he came under the tutelage of the Welsh autodidact Edward Thelwall, who apparently taught him Welsh and of whom Herbert spoke with great respect. He entered University College, Oxford, in 1595.
By his mother's arrangement Herbert married his cousin Mary Herbert of St. Julian's in 1598, and the marriage was a mixed success, Herbert claiming in his Autobiography that he remained faithful to her for the first ten years! He was knighted by James I (1603), and after a short stint on the Continent (1608-9) where he did some fighting and studying, Edward returned to England for a short time before going abroad again to fight under Prince Maurice of Nassau in the Low Countries. On his return to England he rejoined court circles and became acquainted with George Villiers, later the Duke of Buckingham and the rising star at the court of James I. This relationship culminated in Herbert's appointment as English Ambassador to France (1619-24), the highest political post he held. He was created Baron Herbert of Castle-Island in the County of Kerry, but did not receive his English peerage, the Barony of Chirbury, until 1629. His ambassadorship came to an abrupt end when Herbert managed to fall out with the Duc de Luynes, Louis XIII's chief minister. After giving James I unwelcome advice about the proposed marriage of Prince Charles to the Spanish infanta Maria (Herbert was against it) Herbert turned himself almost exclusively to intellectual pursuits, which is where his importance lies.
At the outbreak of the Civil War Lord Herbert found himself caught between his natural loyalty as an aristocrat to Charles I and his political beliefs about arbitrary power, which he expressed in an unpublished manuscript. He also resented the fact that he was still in arrears of payment for his ambassadorship and that his services to the Crown had not been, to his way of thinking, properly recognized. In 1644 he surrendered to Parliament in order to save his library from being confiscated, and he came under attack for disloyalty (most of the Herberts and their cousins the Sidneys were royalists). Lord Herbert died a depressed and disappointed man in 1648.
Lord Herbert was a brave, intelligent and accomplished man, as well as a consummate egotist. His Autobiography tells us he had the sweetest-smelling sweat and that he was irresistible to women, especially if they were married to someone else. According to Herbert they kept portraits of him hidden between their breasts. Herbert boasts about his prowess in battle and his exaggerated sense of honour. His other side was rather different: he was a significant metaphysical poet, a serious philosopher and a competent soldier. He played the lute and composed music, and he spoke several languages. He was a loyal servant to the King, and was never afraid to speak his mind. Thus, Herbert's boasting was not entirely unjustified—indeed we might say that he was the last Renaissance man in some respects.
Herbert's philosophical task, set forth in his two major works on the subject, De veritate (1624) and De religione gentilium (1645), was to effect the reconcilement of religions by uncovering their common ground in antiquity. Herbert proposed that all religions can be reduced to the following propositions, which were innate and which he called Religious Common Notions: (1) There is a God; (2) God ought to be worshipped; (3) Virtue and Piety are the essential components of any religion; (4) Vice is expiated through some form of repentance; (5) There are rewards and punishments after death. Herbert believed that he could find a formula which would result in universal assent, which implied that his system would be rational rather than based upon revelation. Herbert's system was not really Christian, and by the beginning of the next century he was designated "the father of English deism" by Thomas Halyburton, writing in 1714. He suggested that no religion was devoid of truth, but that religious belief must be examined in the same way as any other propositional system. Thus we find he denies the existence of miracles, questions revelation, and implicitly denies the divinity of Christ and his function as a Saviour. It follows that Herbert came under attack after his death by many theologians, both Catholic and Protestant.
As a poet, Herbert is of the "metaphysical" school—his poetry is tough, philosophical, and sometimes obscure, but he often comes up with powerful imagery and a kind of bleak pathos that suffuses his whole oeuvre. Herbert is a dark, brooding figure, the personification of melancholy at its best, in Robert Burton's sense. As a philosopher, Herbert is difficult—his knowledge is encyclopaedic and he loves displaying it, but his Latin style is often rather laboured, complex, and difficult, perhaps due to the fact that he employed Thomas Master, a particularly long-winded Latinist, as an adviser about the language. The second book is easier, Master having died before Lord Herbert finished the work.
Herbert's philosophical work was praised by Descartes who wrote that Herbert's "mind had few equal," by Pierre Gassendi who called him "the second Verulam" (Bacon) and by Ben Jonson, who referred to him as "all-virtuous Herbert," who could not be contained because he was "so many men" in one. His self-styled disciple Charles Blount called Herbert "the Great Oracle and Commander of his Time for Learning," and amongst others who held his work in high esteem were Tommaso Campanella, Thomas Hobbes, Sir William Dugdale and Hugo Grotius. John Donne is said by Johnson to have thought that Herbert's poetry was a bit over-complex, and threatened to write a poem on Prince Henry that "match'd Sir Edward Herbert in obscurity." Herbert made a real contribution to rationalist epistemology, and he deserves more attention than he gets. His poetry is overshadowed by that of his brother George and his philosophical works were, until recently, unavailable in English.

And there's the rascal's picture, too. We like men who stick to their guns!

for The Daily Growler

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