Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thought for the Day

I've been told that I'd see things differently if only I held to a higher perspective. Meaning, they say, makes all the difference. This is patently absurd. I suspect that if I did discover some deeper purpose behind the ubiquitous tragedies of this world, I'd probably be against it, anyway. After all, even proponents of genocide find meaning in what they do.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thought for the Day

Sometimes maintaining a mental equilibrium in the face of this terrible existence is a very hard thing to do. All it takes is a little contemplation, a seeing into the horrible, built-in exigencies of life on this planet, this tooth and claw world where everything ultimately comes to nothing, and all that's left to do is scream or throw up. Or to weep.

Personal Testimonies

I've noticed some new faces popping up here and via emails, and I thought this would be a good time to introduce a new feature to the blog, 'personal testimonies', which I'll link to in the left-hand column. Tell us how you found us; and, if you're an antinatalist, how you came to your philosophical position. Was there a particular turning point for you? Share your stories.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Thought for the Day

Every affirmation of the continuance of life on this planet is a philosophical acquiescence to literally billions of incidences of debilitating illness and disease, of maiming, of torture, of rape, of murder, of pestilence and starvation, of mistreatment and indignity, of crippling incapacitation through accident or willful offense, and of every other crime or mischance that falls upon the heads of living biological entities who were never given the chance to say "No! I choose not to exist." Make no mistake- whenever we say "yes" to life, we ineluctably affirm suffering and death, as well.

John Gray Podcast on His New Book 'The Immortality Commission'

Thanks to commenter Rob. Another nice download for the mp3. Thanks!

About halfway in, he makes a passing remark that what some call immortality is more aptly named 'indeterminate longevity'. I think this is an appropriate distinction, especially in light of the Becker excerpt from the previous post. Where death denial is concerned, aren't any advances in longevity mere postponements of the inevitable? Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, other than the possible negative manifestations- through time and technological advancement- of the dark side of mankind's cumulative psychological repressions. I'd hate to think my personality might end up loaded into the guts of a laptop stamped 'deSade Inside'.

The Downside of Transhuman Transcendence Schemes

Experiencing a bit of insomnia tonight. Reading. Thought I'd share an excerpt from Becker's 'The Denial of Death'...

Again, the modern utopians continue the one-sided Enlightenment dream. Condorcet had already had the identical vision in 1794:

...a period must one day arrive when death will be nothing more than the effect either of extraordinary accidents, or of the slow and gradual decay of the vital powers: and that the duration of the interval between the birth of man and his decay will have itself no assignable limit.

But Choron offers a caution on this vision that goes right to the heart of it and demolishes it: that the "postponement of death is not a solution to the problem of the fear of death...there still will remain the fear of dying prematurely." The smallest virus or the stupidest accident would deprive a man not of 90 years but of 900-and would be then 10 times more absurd...if something is 10 times more absurd it is 10 times more threatening. In other words, death would be "hyperfetishized" as a source of danger, and men in the utopia of longevity would be even less expansive and peaceful than they are today!

And a little farther down-

Utopian man might live in the same "eternal now" of the primitives, but undoubtedly too with the same real compulsivity and phobia. Unless one is talking about real immortality one is talking merely about an intensification of the character defenses and superstitions of man.

How might people act in a world of greatly enhanced longevity where there is even more at stake, more to lose? Might the fulfillment of this ploy to alleviate death anxiety actually magnify the problem? What horrors could be unleashed upon the 'new human' whose lifespan encompassed centuries-or millennia!-instead of mere decades, all in the name of personal security, or even for the attempted relief of ever-increasing ennui amongst the uber-set? Who the ants scorched under the magnifying glasses of eternity's children?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Studies in Pessimism

Anyone interested in the subject of this blog should probably have at least a passing acquaintance with the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, the granddaddy of modern pessimistic thought. I just bought a cheap little mp3 player to listen to audiobooks on my bicycle commute to work, and this was my first download.

SHORT CRITIQUE: The first 4 or 5 chapters were my favorites. After that, he wanders (rather uninterestingly, at times) into what I see as his personal prejudices, culturally induced and/or otherwise. Sir S. wielded a heavy hand of polarized rhetoric, to be sure, which might put some folks off. But where he's right, he's bloody damned right! A must read (or hear).

The book is in the public domain, and the download is free as are all the books at the site I've pointed to. Comes in a zip file; just pop her open and slide the individual chapters over into your player's folder. Voila!

Btw, listening to books is really nice on the bike. Less overall noisiness than music, and doesn't drown out the sound of the traffic bearing down on you. I've listened 3 times now, and am moving on to an old scifi novel by Robert Silverberg. If anybody knows of some good podcasts or audio documentaries, feel free to share.

When I work up the nerve, I'm planning on listening to Gibbon's 'Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire'. Always meant to read that, never got around to it. I'll also be searching for H.G. Wells "History of the World" pts. 1 and 2. Did read that once upon a time, but am thinking it would be a great listen.

PROGRESS REPORT: Outlining, researching and working a bit on chapter 1.

P.S. The guy doing the voicework on this book is VERY good.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Recommendation- The Denial of Death

I thought the little disclaimer at the end of this little review was kind of amusing:

This book is highly recommended for both therapists and those interested in existential thought. However, it is not recommended to be read when life is looking overly bleak.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Is Life Worth Living?

Originally posted by commenter Karl:

This may be of interest to some people here. Debate with Clarence Darrow (the guy who defended the teaching of evolution in American schools) on whether life was worth living or not. Darrow spoke against the motion! Features a great quote from Arthur Balfour below the link.

"We survey the past, and see that its history is of blood and Man, so far as natural science by itself is able to teach us, is no longer the final cause of the universe, the Heaven descended heir of all the ages. His very existence is an accident, his story a brief and transitory episode in the life of one of the meanest of the planets. Of the combination of causes which first converted a dead organic compound into the living progenitors of humanity, science indeed as yet knows nothing. It is enough that from such beginnings famine, disease, and mutual slaughter, fit nurses of the future lords of creation, have gradually evolved, after infinite travail, a race with conscience enough to feel that it is vile, and intelligence enough to know that it is insignificant tears, of helpless blundering, of wild revolt, of stupid acquiescence, of empty aspirations. We sound the future, and learn that after a period, long compared with the individual life, but short indeed compared with the divisions of time open to our investigation, the energies of our system will decay, the glory of the sun will be dimmed, and the earth, tideless and inert, will no longer tolerate the race which for a moment disturbed its solitude. Man will go down into the pit, and all his thoughts will perish. The uneasy consciousness, which in this obscure corner has for a long space broken the contented silence of the universe, will be at rest. Matter will know itself no longer. "Imperishable monuments" and "immortal deeds," death itself, and love stronger than death, will be as though they had never been. Nor will anything that is be better or be worse for all that the labour, genius, devotion, and suffering of men have striven
through countless generations to effect."