ludimagister

28, male. columbus, oh.

It is not you, tumblr. It is me.

“Live. Be great and unhappy.”

—    Giacomo Leopardi, Dialogue between Nature and a Soul

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“Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that.”

—   Samuel Beckett

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“The seed of a metaphysical defeat is in all of us. For the honest questioner, who doesn’t seek refuge in some faith or fantasy, there will never be an answer.”

—   Peter Wessel Zapffe, To Be a Human Being

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“Each new generation asks: “What is the meaning of life?” A more fertile way of putting the question would be: “Why does man need a meaning to life?””

—   Peter Wessel Zapffe, To Be a Human Being

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What a lovely afternoon.

“By imitating virtue we become virtuous.”

—   André Comte-Sponville, A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues: The Uses of Philosophy in Everyday Life

“Man cuts out for himself a manageable world: he throws himself into action uncritically, unthinkingly. He accepts the cultural programming that turns his nose where he is supposed to look; he doesn’t bite the world off in one piece as a giant would, but in small manageable pieces, as a beaver does. He uses all kinds of techniques, which we call the “character defenses”: he learns not to expose himself, not to stand out; he learns to embed himself in other-power, both of concrete persons and of things and cultural commands; the result is that he comes to exist in the imagined infallibility of the world around him. He doesn’t have to have fears when his feet are solidly mired and his life mapped out in a ready-made maze. All he has to do is to plunge ahead in a compulsive style of drivenness in the “ways of the world.””

—   Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

“The fear of death is natural and is present in everyone. It is the basic fear that influences all others, a fear from which no one is immune, no matter how disguised it may be.”

—   Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

The fact is that this is what society is and always has been: a symbolic action system, a structure of statuses and roles, customs and rules for behavior, designed to serve as a vehicle for earthly heroism. Each script is somewhat unique, each culture has a different hero system. What the anthropologists call “cultural relativity” is thus really the relativity of hero-systems the world over. But each cultural system is a dramatization of earthly heroics; each system cuts out roles for performances of various degrees of heroism: from the “high” heroism of a Churchill, a Mao, or a Buddha, to the “low” heroism of the coal miner, the peasant, the simple priest; the plain, everyday, earthy heroism wrought by gnarled working hands guiding a family through hunger and disease.

It doesn’t matter whether the cultural hero-system is frankly magical, religious, and primitive or secular, scientific, and civilized. It is still a mythical hero-system in which people serve in order to earn a feeling of primary value, of cosmic specialness, of ultimate usefulness to creation, of unshakable meaning. They earn this feeling by carving out a place in nature, by building an edifice that reflects human value: a temple, a cathedral, a totem pole, a skyscraper, a family that spans three generations. The hope and belief is that the things that man creates in society are of lasting worth and meaning, that they outlive or outshine death and decay, that man and his products count. When Norman O. Brown said that Western society since Newton, no matter how scientific or secular it claims to be, is still as “religious” as any other, this is what he meant: “civilized” society is a hopeful belief and protest that science, money and goods make man count for more than any other animal. In this sense everything that man does is religious and heroic, and yet in danger of being fictitious and fallible.

—   Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

“Society itself is a codified hero system, which means that society everywhere is a living myth of the significance of human life, a defiant creation of meaning. Every society thus is a “religion” whether it thinks so or not.”

—   Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

Technology is both poisoning and curing. At its first appearance, however, it is poisoning. It becomes curative when you have what I call the second moment of epochality of technics—the process of appropriation of a new technical system by society and the development of new modes of psychic and collective individuation based on this technical system. So, the problem of disadjustment is what was called by Shakespeare “the time is out of joint.” What is creating this being out of joint? That is the question. And my answer is: the process of technical exteriorization.

For instance: at this very moment I am exteriorizing myself. Speaking with you, I am exteriorizing myself. And that means: I am technicizing myself. If I talk with you, I create new words. I very much like to create new words. A word is also a new technical object. The opposition between technics and speech for me is completely artificial.

Now, for a human being, to live is to individuate oneself. How am I individuating myself? By exteriorizing myself. And in the same way, I am interiorizing myself, because when I speak to you, I am listening to what I say, so I interiorize myself. Now this process of exteriorization-interiorization is the originary process of psychic and social individuation. So you can see very clearly that at the beginning of psychic activity you always already have technics, i.e., technical individuation.

Now, you might not be a professional speaker, like me, but you might for instance produce flint stones. Suppose you are a prehistoric man and you are producing stone tools. It is exactly the same thing. That is what I try to describe in my first book Technics and Time: The Fault of Epimetheus. When pre-historic man is producing flint stones, thereby exteriorizing his experience, he is in fact transforming his brain, his psyche.

—   Bernard Stiegler

“It is completely artificial to ask “what is the relationship of the human to technics?” because the human is technics. Humanity cannot even be understood without technics. Take the example of the ant in the anthill. It is impossible to understand the ant without the anthill. If you don’t see it within the anthill, it is impossible to understand it. And you need to consider the relationship with the other ants as well, because it is a social animal. And it is the same when you have, for example, a savage child which has not learned to speak and to walk, etcetera. Such a child is not really human. It is a potentiality of humanity, but it’s not human. It is a very strange being between animality and humanity. So, it is artificial to ask, for example, what is determining human life: is it the psychic apparatus of the individual, is it the social organization, or is it the technical organization? It is completely artificial because you don’t have a psychic individual without a society, and you don’t have a society without technics.”

—   Bernard Stiegler

“Every virtue is a summit between two vices, a crest between two chasms: hence courage stands between cowardice and temerity, dignity between servility and selfishness, gentleness between anger and apathy, and so on. But who can dwell on the high summits all the time? To think about the virtues is to take measure of the distance separating us from them. To think about their excellence is to think about our own inadequacies or wretchedness.”

—   André Comte-Sponville, A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues: The Uses of Philosophy in Everyday Life

“If every being or thing has its specific capacity in which it excels or can excel (e.g. the excellent knife, the excellent medicine), we might well ask what man’s distinctive excellence resides in. For Aristotle, the answer is the rational life, which sets man apart from the animals. But a rational life requires not only reason but many other things as well: desire, education, habit, memory, and so on. A man’s desires are not the same as a horse’s; nor does an educated person desire what a savage or an ignoramus does. All virtues are historical, as are all the qualities that make up what we call our “humanity”; and in the virtuous man, humanity and virtue inevitably converge. It is a man’s virtue that makes him human, or rather it is this specific capacity he has to affirm his own excellence, which is to say, his humanity, in the normative sense. Human, never too human. Virtue is a way of being, Aristotle explained, but an acquired and lasting way of being: it is what we are (and therefore what we can do), and what we are is what we have become. And how could we have become what we are without other human beings? Virtue thus represents an encounter between biological evolution and cultural development; it is our way of being and acting humanly, in other words (since humanity, in this sense, is a value), our power to act well. “Nothing is so fine and so justifiable,” wrote Montaigne, “as to play the man well and duly.” To do so is virtue itself.”

—   André Comte-Sponville, A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues: The Uses of Philosophy in Everyday Life