We had two interesting discussions on Thursday based on information on Descartes in Tom Butler-Dowdon’s book, 50 Philosophy Classics. I also provided some handouts based on my research mostly on the internet. This morning’s group found Descartes famous ‘I think, therefore I am’ difficult to grasp. Also the idea that Descartes could discard all existing knowledge and experience and start again in judging what he believed to be true. Is it really possible to imagine that all your past ideas and experiences can be erased to the point that the only thing one can know is that they are a ‘thinking thing’.
Descartes goes on to to say:
“And the whole force of the arguments I have used here to prove the existence of God consists in this, that I recognise that it would not be possible for my nature to be as it is, that is to say, that I should have in me the idea of a God, if God did not really exist.”
We discussed that people throughout time and in different cultures throughout the world independently believe in some form of higher power. But does that really prove that God exists? It doesn’t disprove it either!
The afternoon group suggested that Descartes’ attention to God in his writing was more pragmatic due to the time (early 1600’s) in France. Many of his ideas in maths and science, astronomy could have been seen as heresy if he didn’t publicly pay homage to a belief in God. Galileo suffered being called a heretic for his advances in scientific knowledge so Descartes, as a witness to this, withdrew some of his writings (The Book of the World).
Primarily our group is about having a stimulating discussion and keeping our brains active. The participants know that I am not a philosophy academic and hopefully that enables them to think and to express valid views on the topics raised in the book. And we can get to know each other and start to build some social networks in our community.
Next week I will be starting the Let’s Talk Philosophy course for our local University of the Third Age.
This year we will be using the book “50 Philosophy Classics” by Tom Butler Brown. We hope to cover just ten philosophers between now and June. It will really be an introduction to each of the chosen philosophers and we will enjoy some stimulating conversation and hopefully a few laughs!
I usually include a quote by a philosopher as a basis for discussion. Our first one is Aristotle and the quote is:
Do you have any thoughts on the quote? I would love to hear them!
Recently I have been exploring many avenues seeking wisdom.
I have studied (with a small group of other interested folks) Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche (not in any great depth, I might add!)
From there I spent some time in October studying the Stoics – Seneca again, Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus. Following on from there we leapt a few centuries to consider Karl Marx and Mary Wollstonecraft. We finished up with a quick look at Bertrand Russell and Australian philosopher, Peter Singer.
Now it would probably be useful for me to tell you all about them but I am probably too lazy to do that, to be honest. Anyway, if you are interested they are only a google search away.
While doing the above I also joined an online course with The School of Practical Philosophy. A small group of us met online on Monday evenings for an hour and considered a range of texts and some thoughtful discussion.
The thing that impacted me the most was the well known words used in the the song below. It was one of those ‘aha’ moments! Realising that the cycles of life keep turning and sometimes we are observers and sometimes participants. Sometimes things go the way that is pleasing to us sometimes they don’t!
Where does this leave me? Not sure! The journey continues …
I was cooking dinner this evening – Tuna Mornay – an old favourite. Now, over time I have been careful about particular food items and sensitivities. The mornay starts with cooking the onion in butter. Next is to add flour to make a roux (butter and flour mixed together to make a paste). I used gluten-free flour. All good so far.
Next item to add was the milk – soy milk of course. Then I added the tuna, cheese, spices, corn and peas.
An then I laughed at myself. Why did I bother with the gluten-free flour and the soy milk when I had already included a whole onion?
Then I got philosophical. We take so much care in looking after very specific aspects of our lives while we cannot see the bit that really needs attention (the equivalent of the onion) in our lives.
I guess this is how most of us manage day-to-day life. We are not always attentive to the bigger picture – especially if our thoughts are busy with a million distractions. We keep hearing about the importance of being mindful of the present moment but it often alludes me still.
I loved the Story of the Week so thought I would share it with you. The author is unknown.
One day Arnav and his friend Bhima were having a friendly chat while walking just outside the marketplace in Dhubri. A beggar asked for some help from Arnav, who told him to ask him tomorrow. The beggar went away. Looking around Bhima saw a big drum at a stall just inside the market took the big drum and started walking through the market beating the drum furiously. Arnav was surprised, ran after his friend and asked why he was doing this.
Bhima said, “I want to declare that our revered Arnav has won the battle against time! You told that beggar to come tomorrow. How do you know that you will be there tomorrow? How do you know that beggar would still be alive tomorrow? Even if, you both are alive, you might not be in a position to give anything. Or, the beggar might not even need anything tomorrow. How did you know that you could both even meet tomorrow? You are the first person in this world that has overcome time. I want to tell people of Dhubri about this.”
Arnav got the message from Bhima, recalling that actions can only occur in the present moment. Arnav called that beggar right away and gave him the necessary help.
This time last week we arrived in Perth after our week’s holiday in Darwin. We had a really good and relaxing time. Great to see my son and grandsons as well. The weather was fabulous – around 30-35 degrees. It was so good to be warm! Below are some photos from Darwin Museum and Art Gallery, The Botanic Gardens and Darwin Wharf. We also went to Bachelor (about 105km south of Darwin). In the 1950’s it was the town-site for mine workers at the nearby uranium mine called Rum Jungle.
The crocodile in the above photo was called Sweetheart!
We are back home again now and being optimistic that Spring is on its way.
My six-week philosophy course finished in August. I am missing the interesting weekly discussions we had. In the interim I have signed up for a ten week (1 hr per week) course titled Presence of Mind with the School of Practical Philosophy. The course is online and made up with people from different states of Australia and three people overseas. Fascinating!
Life experience has taught me that nothing of value comes easily. So I agree with Nietzsche on that one. He is a complex philosopher with many strands to his philosophy. In our U3A groups yesterday the majority felt their opinion of him has improved after considering Alain de Botton’s description of him and his life work. I wasn’t so sure!
The three things that stood out for me were:
His thorough advice on how to write a novel (over the top!)
His views on Christianity – he was strong (ruthless) in his opposition – I wondered how his views would be received today
His ‘Slave Morality’ and ‘Master Morality’
On the third point we read an article written for Psychology Today that considered those views from the point of view of US politics (Democrats and Republicans) but I could see how they could reflect most left and right views of politics today. Here is a LINK for that article. It made for good and lively discussion.