Posted in Francis Hutcheson

Is Consuming Always a Vice?

It is ridiculous to say, ‘That using any thing above the bare Necessaries of Life is Intemperance, Pride or Luxury; and that no other universal Boundaries can be fixed; because what in one Station or Fortune is bare Study of Decency, or Conveniency, would be Extravagance in another.’ As if Temperance, Frugality, or Moderation, denoted fixed Weights or Measures or Sums that all were to observe, and not a proportion to to Mens Circumstances. Great and Little are relative to a Species or Kind. Those Dimensions are great in a Deer which are small in a Horse: What is great in a Horse would be small in a Mountain. Will any one thence argue, that there can be no adapting one Form to another, so it shall neither be too big not little? Cannot a Coat suit a middle Stature, because the dimensions would be too great for a Dwarf, and too little for a Giant? If […] a man of good sense may know how far he may go in Eating and Drinking, or any other Expenses, without impairing his Health or Fortune, or Hindering any Offices of Religion or Humanity, he has found the Bounds of Temperance, Frugality, and Moderation for himself. “

Francis Hutcheson writing in Dublin Weekly Journal (1727), later printed in “Hibernicus’ Letters”, on the topic of “The Fable of The Bees” by Bernard Mandeville.

Hutcheson goes on to argue that even if true over-consumption was stamped out, the money would be spent elsewhere – on goods to improve the person’s circumstances or that of his family or friends (“Dress, Habitation or Studies”) or indeed keep people alive longer to consume more in the long run!

(Inspired by “The Good Consumer”, which mentions Mandeville but leaves out Hutcheson.)

Posted in Iris Murdoch

Happiness and Self

Happiness is a matter of one’s most ordinary everyday mode of consciousness being busy and lively and unconcerned with self. To be damned is for one’s ordinary everyday mode of consciousness to be unremitting agonising preoccupation with self.

Iris Murdoch, The Nice and the Good, (1968), chapter 22.

Posted in Samuel Beckett

Beckett at the Back: World Cup Philosophy

Panel from "World Cup Philosophy: Germany vs France" (c) Existential Comics
Panel from “World Cup Philosophy: Germany vs France”
(c) Existential Comics

Beckett playing (in some sense of the term) for the French team in a parallel universe version of the World Cup 2014 quarter-final game against Germany in Rio de Janeiro. See Existential Comics for more.

Posted in George Berkeley Oliver Goldsmith

Berkeley’s Foray into Experimental Philosophy

Curiosity leading [Berkeley] one day to see an execution, he returned home pensive and melancholy and could not forbear reflecting on what he had seen. He desired to know what were the pains and symptoms a malefactor felt […] in short he resolved to tuck himself up for a trial; at the same time desiring his companion to take him down at a signal agreed upon […]
Berkeley was, therefore tied up to the ceiling, and the chair taken from under his feet, but soon losing the use of his senses, his companion it seems waited a little too long for the signal agreed upon, and our enquirer had like to have been hanged in good earnest; for as soon as he was taken down he fell senseless and motionless upon the floor.

From Memoirs of the late Dr. Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, as it appeared in Volume 6 of the Annual Register for the Year 1763. It was originally printed in the Weekly Magazine (1759/60) and reprinted/pirated in The British Plutarch in 1762.
Continue reading “Berkeley’s Foray into Experimental Philosophy”

Posted in Events Philip Pettit

Philip Pettit Public Lecture, “The Infrastructure of Democracy”, 20 June 2014, 6pm, UCD

Philip Pettit will give a public lecture on “The Infrastructure of Democracy” at 6pm on Friday 20th June, 2014, in the FitzGerald Debating Chamber, Student Centre, UCD. Ruairi Quinn TD, Minister for Education and Skills, will respond, followed by a reception.

This lecture is the Opening Keynote for the third annual UCD Garret FitzGerald School. The topic for discussion is Reforming The Republic’s Democratic Institutions, a debate which has recently gained momentum from the Constitutional Convention, debates on the role of the Senate, and possibilities of far-reaching changes in institutions ranging from the judiciary and courts to the educational system.

To register or for more detail on the sessions to be held on Saturday, 21 June 2014 as part of the Summer School see here.

Posted in Philip Pettit

Irish Times Unthinkable: Philip Pettit on the risk corporations pose to freedom

From the Irish Times Unthinkable column. Joe Humphreys talks to Philip Pettit, whose latest book His latest book, Just Freedom: A Moral Compass for a Complex World, explores the competing rights of individuals and group agents.

Posted in William Butler Yeats

In Our Time: Yeats and Mysticism

[soundcloud height=”200″][/soundcloud]

In this episode of In Our Time Melvyn Bragg explores the strange and mystical world of the poet W B Yeats, with Roy Foster (Carroll Professor of Irish History at Oxford University), Warwick Gould (Director of the Institute of English Studies, University of London) and Brenda Maddox (author of George’s Ghosts: A New Life of W B Yeats.

Celtic folklore, the Theosophical society, the Golden Dawn group, seances and a wife who communicated with the spirit world all had a huge effect on the work of this great Irish poet. […]
Yeats the dreamer and the poet was also a mystic, a philosopher and a practitioner of magic. From the occult subcultures of Victorian London to the outlandish folklore of the Irish Peasantry, Yeats’ obsession with the spiritual world infused his poetic mind and even drove him to describe his own religion. Why was the period so alive with spiritualism? And how did the poems reflect the dreams?

Posted in Jonathan Swift William Butler Yeats

Yeats on Swift and Liberty

What was this liberty…served through all his life with so much eloquence? ‘I should think,’ he wrote in the Discourse, ‘that the saying, vox populi, vox dei ought to be understood of the universal bent and current of a people, not of the bare majority of a few representatives, which is often procured by little arts, and great industry and application; wherein those who engage in the pursuits of malice and revenge are much more sedulous than such as would prevent them.’ That vox populi or ‘bent and current,’ or what we even more vaguely call national spirit, was the sole theme of his Drapier Letters; its right to express itself as it would through such men as had won or inherited general consent. I doubt if a mind so contemptuous of average men thought…that it found expression also through individual lives, or asked more for those lives than protection from the most obvious evils.

Yeats on Swift (specifically his favourite tract of Swift’s, the Discourse of the Contests and Dissentions…in Athens and Rome) in Wheels and Butterflies (London, 1934), pp. 23-24

The quote was included in W. B. Yeats, Jonathan Swift, and Liberty, which links Swift and Yeats in their fight for a particular vision of liberty, coupled with elitism:
“He knew that the Irish intellect must continue the fight that Swift had led in Ireland against those perpetuations of seventeenth-century materialism–optimism, faith in utopian schemes, trust in democracy–that lay behind the new pious legislation and hedged about modern life. Outside of Ireland he had been accustomed to the extreme opinions of youth, often outrageous and contrary to his own opinions. But not in Ireland. Therefore Yeats felt mightly obliged to be the Swift of his day and outrage youth itself.”

Yeats’ version of Swift’s epitaph pares the original down to liberty and indignation:

Swift has sailed into his rest;
Savage indignation there
Cannot lacerate his Breast.
Imitate him if you dare,
World-Besotted Traveler; he
Served human liberty.

Posted in Philip Pettit

Oxford Podcast Series: Philip Pettit on “Making Good: The Challenge of Robustly Demanding Values”

Oxford Podcast Series: Philip Pettit on “Making Good: The Challenge of Robustly Demanding Values”

This is a series of three podcasts, each a lecture from the 2011 Annual Uehiro Lecture Series on the theme “Making Good: The Challenge of Robustly Demanding Values” given by Philip Pettit.

Posted in John Toland

John Toland: “Brahminical theology”

© Trustees of the British Museum (reproduced under  standard terms of use
Design for a monument to Sir William Jones. © Trustees of the British Museum (standard terms of use)

From pages 172-3, Sea of Faith (1984) by Don Cupitt:

There is one rather puzzling early example of knowledge of Indian religion. John Toland (1670-1722), an eccentric freelance Anglo-Irish writer and pamphleteer, was a man known to Leibniz. A theological radical, he was the inventor of the word ‘pantheism’, and in quoting precedents for this idea he mentions ‘the Brahminical theology’. Where Toland learnt this, I do not know. It is usually said that the first translations of Indian sacred texts into European languages came much later: Charles Wilke’s version of the Gita(1785), Sir William Jones’s Shakuntala (1789) and The Laws of Manu (1794) and […] Peron’s translation of some fifty of the Upsanisads(1802).”

Intriguing. But even if texts were not available in European languages, there were certainly people from the Indian subcontinent in London, notably Lascars serving on ships from India. He had also spent time in Holland which also had links with East Indies. Might Toland have learned this though word of mouth?