An English In Kentucky


















Tuesday May 21st 2019Tim Candler9


    Samuel Butler, who died in 1902, was one of those who suggested that machines by natural selection might develop consciousness and in the course of time we people would become inferior to machines. Back then it was an astonishingly controversial thing to suggest and it sounded nutty. "Belief," Samuel Butler also remarked, "like any other moving body follows the path of least resistance." He'd decided not to become a clergyman when it struck him that baptism seemed to make no difference whatsoever to the behavior or the morals of his peers. And I guess your correspondent is kind of taken by the idea that belief follows the path of least resistance, it somehow summarizes the fickleness of values and beliefs in the assumed relationship between beliefs, ideas and values. The great minds have thought about an Absolute Value as a good in and of itself rather than something that's used to obtain something else. And the ultimate Idealists have suggested that all real knowledge is knowledge of the Absolute and the Absolute here is defined as an all encompassing totality of everything, all of which suggests that if we knew everything we'd achieve something like perfection, blessed release if you prefer.



    So a sad day when a perceived Absolute Value falls foul of what might be called reality, you sell all your stuff on the understanding that the world is ending and whoop the world doesn't end on December 21st 1954. Better to just think of values as fickle, a weak link in the chain. And the argument is that if you do that all hell breaks lose, corruption, chaos and anarchy. In other words Values, fickle or otherwise, whether you like it or not, aid social cohesion. Oh sure, it would be nice if values were voluntary, a series of menu choices. And it would be very nice if values were real.  "To Impeach, or Not to Impeach." An interesting speech and along the way Hamlet argues that conscience makes cowards of us all. For Shakespeare conscience was an inner feeling that acts as a guide to rightness or wrongness of a behavior. Hamlet decided that the guide of conscience came from an undiscovered distant land from which there was no return, so no guarantee that it was an accurate predictor of right and wrong. And yes, he was wondering about the point of it all, feeling sorry for himself and his miserable life, wondering what do next, end it all and go with the flow, assume it's going to be OK or take "arms against a sea of trouble." Nor did it end well for Hamlet, he was stabbed with a poison sword.


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