Philosophy - The downfall of mankind - Part 10 - The Duality of Life and Paradoxes

Philosophy - Part 10 - The Duality of Life and Paradoxes- By P.K.Odendaal - 21 May 2012.
And now we have finally come to our long delayed analysis of Black and White in The Sunset Limited. Even here, as the dialogue goes, things are not so easy to follow, having an intrinsic uneasiness due to the duality of life, complicated further by the false theories of philosophers, now totally exposed by people like David Hume and Jean Paul Sartre. This whole piece of TSL is a symphony of errors drawn from these and other philosophers, yet we are unable to make a rational reply to their irrational theories.

In fact, if we recap somewhat, we see that David Hume repudiated all the philosophers before him, like what Aristotle, Plato and Aristotle had posited. Then we see Hegel built it up again, only to be demolished again by Marx and the Existentialists. We see that God is declared dead (for our purposes) by Nietzsche, and then Sartre is embarrassed that God is dead, because he needs Him for his theory. We escape all moral obligations and find that we are condemned to free will, due to the theory of Sartre, and when we do that, we find that we have no moral basis in his bankrupt ethics to base our decisions on. Finally Wittgenstein comes and proves to us that all the philosophers whom he had 'worshipped in ignorance', before studying them, were 'stupid' and dishonest and made disgusting mistakes'. Finally we came to the conclusion that philosophy is dead (as they wished God to be) because they used the ambiguities in language to prove their own ambiguities.
In the end we found that all this hot air the philosophers have made over the millennia, turned out to be a difference in semantics and language. It thus only confirmed the age old adage that bullshit baffles brains.
But in the process we believed them, and they had a profound influence on our lives, on society and the way rulers governed. Just think of the devastation of Marxism and Machiavellian philosophy which still costs the lives and happiness of billions of people in dictatorial regimes.
And in this mess of philosophy we find White entangled, and it is unlikely that we can disentangle him. In the libretto of The Gondoliers by Gilbert and Sullivan, the Chief Inquisitor sings the beautiful song in which the lyric says that only death is the great disentangler.
Whilst we ponder the position of White, we might as well, as an intermission, listen to what Biron says about knowledge in Love's Labour's Lost by Shakespeare : (The King and three of his friends swear to study for three years whilst they abstain from any enjoyment of the flesh.) This is one of the finest pieces of prose you will ever get, and the insight into knowledge hundreds of years before its time.
Longaville :        I am resolved; 'tis but a three years' fast
                       The mind shall banquet, though the body pine
                       Fat paunches have lean pates, and dainty bits
                       make rich the ribs, but bankrupt quite the wits.

Longaville:         You swore to that Biron, and to the rest

Biron :              By yea and nay, sir, then I swore in jest
                       What is the end of study? let me know

Ferdinand :       Why, that to know, which else we should not know

Biron :              Things hid and barr'd, you mean from common sense

Ferdinand :       Ay, that is study's godlike recompense

Biron :              Come on then; I will swear to study so,
                       To know the thing I am forbid to know:
                       As thus, - to study where I well may dine,
                       When I to feast expressly am forbid
                       Or study where to meet some mistress fine,
                       When mistresses from common sense are hid;
                       Or, having sworn too hard a keeping oath,
                       Study to break it and not break my troth,
                       If study's gain be thus and this be so
                       Study knows that which yet it doth not know
                       Swear me to this, and I will ne'er say no

Ferdinand :       These be the stops that hinder study quite
                       And train our intellects to vain delight

Biron :              Why, all delights are vain, but that most vain
                       Which with pain purchased doth inherit pain
                       As, painfully to pore upon a book
To seek the light of truth; while truth the while
Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look:
Light seeking light doth light of light beguile:
So, ere you find where light in darkness lies,
your light grows dark by losing of your eyes.
Study me how to please the eye indeed
By fixing it upon a fairer eye,
Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed
And give him light that it was blinded by.
Study is like the heaven's glorious sun
That will not be deep-search'd with saucy looks:
Small have continuous plodders ever won
Save base authority from other's books
These earthly godfathers of heaven's light
That give a name to every fixed star
Have no more profit of their shining nights
Than those that walk and wot not what they are
Too much to know is to know nought but fame
And every godfather can give a name

Ferdinand :       How well he's read, to reason against reading

Dumain :          Proceeded well, to stop all good proceeding

Longaville :        He weeds the corn and still lets grow the weeding

Biron :              The spring is near when green geese are a-breeding

David Hume must have read Shakespeare and found his inspiration from this piece when he demolished philosophy. And then ... where did Shakespeare get this insight and inspiration from, without a David Hume?

And so we finally say goodbye to philosophy as a science or a tool to inform our life with, we say goodbye to knowledge, knowing it will shed no light on our lives and our society, and we all of a sudden realise why God forbid Adam and Eve from eating from the fruits of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil. It is not worth the trouble.

And yet ... after dismissing philosophy and knowledge as a waste of time, we still have this uneasy feeling that they might be right - or at least some of them, and this is due to the duality of life, which posits the good and the evil as equal opportunities driven by our free will.
In fact, I wish to propose to you that every argument, however flawed it may be, has some truth in it, as well as its counter argument. I am reminded of a brilliant South African advocate named C.J.Langenhoven who fought a water court case for a client. After two weeks in court, he won the case, whereupon his opposing advocate congratulated him with the victory, with the terse remark that he had the better case. Langenhoven thereupon said : My case was good, and it took me two weeks to win it, but if I had your side of the case, I would have won it in two days.
And that brings me back to another advocate of millennia past. (From The Protagoras and Meno of Plato).
There was a young man who wanted to study to become an attorney. His uncle lent him the money for his studies on condition that he repay him as soon as he won his first court case. After he graduated, he was not interested to do any court cases and that absolved him from repaying his uncle. His uncle thereupon made a court case against him for repaying the money, arguing that if he (the uncle) lost the case, then the nephew must repay him the money due to their agreement, because he (the nephew) would have won his first case. On the other hand, if the uncle won the case, the nephew must still repay the money by order of the court. So this was a win-win situation for the uncle. The nephew, having been made wiser through his studies, argued to the contrary. He said that if he lost his case, then he would not have to repay his uncle, because he would not have won any cases by then, and if he won his case, then he would not have to repay his uncle by order of the court. So he was in a win-win situation. How can they both be in a win-win situation? That is life.
Sartre stepped into the same sort of trap. He argued that we are not bound by our past, present or future or any moral consideration to make any decision and could make it purely on the basis that we now have total freedom to make any decision. We could just use our free will to make any decision that was good for us. But then he realised that in that case we would have no underlying moral or other basis to base that decision on - and would remain decisionless in his bankrupt ethics.
And to intensify our concept of the duality of life the following : We have life and death. Would you really know the one if you did not know the other. We have happiness and grief. Is our concept and appreciation of happiness not so much more because we have experienced grief. We have faith and doubt. How can you believe if we never doubted. Can we do only what our flesh wants us to do, or only what our spirit wants us to do? How would we know the Good, if we did not experience Evil. Do we realise that we have both and that both are in a constant conflict with each other - most of the time - as so wonderfully put by Paul in Romans 7 :
Rom 7:9  For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. v:10  And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. v:11  For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. v:12  Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. v:13  Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. v:14  For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. v:15  For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. v:16  If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. v:17  Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. v:18  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. v:19  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. v:20  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. v:21  I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. v:22  For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: v:23  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. v:24  O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
No back to the dialogue :
Black saved White's life by grabbing him before he could jump in front of the Sunset Limited Train, in his effort to commit suicide
And while we are at learning and knowledge, we will plunge directly into the middle of the dialogue between Black and White where they discuss the best books for learning and gaining knowledge. (dialogue abridged)
Black :      But you is (have) read a lot of books... How many would you say you have read?
White :      I don't know - two a week maybe - A hundred a year. For close to forty years.
Black :      Four thousand seven hundred and twenty?
White :      Yes
Black :      What would you say was the best book that ever was wrote?
White :      Maybe War and Peace.
Black :      This War and Peace book. That's a book that somebody made up, right?
White :      Well, yes.
Black :      So is that how it's different from this book? (showing him the Bible)
White :      Not really. In my view they are both made up.
Black :      Mm. Ain't neither of them true.
White :      Not in the historical sense. No.
Black :      So what would be a true book?
White :      I suppose maybe a history book. Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire might be one. At least the events would be actual events. They would be things that had happened.
Black :      Mm hm. You think that book is as good a book as this book here? (pointing to the Bible)
White :      I don't know. Gibbon is a cornerstone. It's a major book.
Black :      And a true book. Don't forget that.
White :      And a true book. Yes.
Black :      But is it as good a book?
White :      I don't know. I don't know as you can make a comparison. You're talking about apples and pears.
Black :      Now we ain't talkin bout no apples and pears, Professor. We talkin about books. Is that Decline and Fall book as good a book as this book here. Answer the question.
White :      I might have to say no.
Black :      It's more true but it ain't as good.
White :      If you like.
Black :      It ain't what I like. It's what you said.
White :      All right.
Black :      (Laying the Bible on the table and pointing to the words 'The greatest book ever written' - now faded away through usage). It used to say here on the cover fore it got wore off : The Greatest Book Ever Written. You think that might be true?
White :      It might.
Black :      You read good books.
White :      I try to. Yes.
Black :      But not the best book. Why is that?
White :      I need to go.

So much for the subject of books. And it is this Best of Books on which we will develop our view about life and about philosophy - because the whole Book is full of it. I do not know why the philosophers did not do that. If you read each philosopher's history, you will find that they first became atheists, rejected the Bible, and then developed their theories. We are not going to do that. We are going to use everything in this Best Book to base our philosophy and way of life on.

Until next time then.