Archive | June 2015

Possession and Obsession

Some questions about the meaning of property and ownership arose in the comments section following my post on “The American Civil War”, in the course of which I drew attention to the German philosopher Max Stirner’s politically influential book “The Ego and Its Own“, and his teaching of “egoistic individualism”. A copy of Stirner’s book, in English translation, is available online for those interested.

So, here I want to try and address the ideas of property and ownership in what we might refer to as their “spiritual” aspect, rather than their material or physical aspect, as “private property” or “real estate” or “capital”, or just plain old “stuff”.

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The American Civil War

The Charleston massacre has highlighted some of the unresolved issues of the American Civil War, which are now being addressed in yet another round-about way. I think the whole thing has been poorly thought out and hasn’t really touched upon the issue that should be addressed — the principle of private property.

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Adam and Eve and the Four Ways of Knowing

“Two souls, alas, reside within my breast,
And each from the other would be parted.
The one in sturdy lust for love
With clutching organs clinging to the world,
The other strongly rises from the gloom
To lofty fields of ancient heritage”. — Goethe, Faust.

Having put my foot in it yesterday by invoking Goethe’s poem about the “two souls”, I should probably complete the thought begun there by speaking to the issue of the “other” soul that resides within our breast besides the one that, with clutching organs, obsessively clings to this world of Time and Death and Fear, which is to say, samsaric or sensate existence. But to even begin to discuss the meaning of Goethe’s “two souls” requires we address yet another confusion of the contemporary mind, which is the confusion of “origin” with “beginning”.

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A Parable of Self-Destruction

“Two souls, alas, reside within my breast,
And each from the other would be parted.
The one in sturdy lust for love
With clutching organs clinging to the world,
The other strongly rises from the gloom
To lofty fields of ancient heritage”. — Goethe, Faust.

 

I once read a book about the conquest of Mexico. The book, entitled The True History of the Conquest of New Spain, was a first-hand account of the conquest written by one of the conquistadores named Bernal Diaz del Castillo (c. 1492 – 1584) . I have not retained much of it, but Bernal Diaz’s account of the fate of one of the conquistadores remains especially vivid as even a parable about the current predicament of Late Modernity and its self-destructive tendencies.

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The Jungle

You all know of the great ancient civilisations, such as the Mayan or the Cambodian, that fell into ruin and were reclaimed by the jungle. You probably also know Shelley’s famous sonnet Ozymandias, about an empire fallen into ruin and reclaimed by the desert.

Our own civilisation is also being reclaimed by Nature, but in subtle ways that are seldom recognised except in such sayings as “the rat race” or “the law of the jungle”. “It’s a jungle out there”, we say about the workaday world, and there is more truth in this than you might imagine.

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A Parable About Hammers and Nails

After my comment yesterday about the utilitarian ethos and its origins — as informing our understanding of the contemporary “common sense” — I thought I would expand upon that here. The old adage that runs: “if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail”, is actually quite rich in meaning.

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