Why We All Have Names

There is an urge to name things. Everything. We cannot escape it, it is part of how we organise the world around us and our place in it. The names encapsulate everything we know about something and as philosophers have told us for centuries, all we don’t know. We think because something has a name and we can attach ideas of that thing to the name, that we understand what a table is, what a chair is, want an aunt is. But we only get a workable understanding.

Since everything changes, and since words can be infinitely defined because we all possess our own, unique understanding of anything, what we are doing is working in a shorthand that enables us to get along together in something resembling concerted effort. Until we don’t.

Then we find out how differently we all view each other. Then we discover we have all been using the same words to mean slightly different things. And worse, words we use have been chosen for us to conjure up specific understanding. Brainwashing if you like.

So we name each other but we don’t understand each other and we name the things around us but we still have a long way to go to understand the material world.

So Many Songs

Plato distrusted music. He thought it played upon the emotions and like many intellectuals his rationality was paramount and anything that got in the way of ‘clear’ thinking was to be avoided. Drugs are another case in point.

The thing is to always acquaint emotions with hysteria, lack of thinking and instant judgments you later regret is to misunderstand emotion. Emotions are varied and even the rational mind is emotional because it is being cold. Coldness is an emotion. It is true you can be in an ’emotional’ state but I think we always are. I think it impossible not to be. Obviously there are emotional states that are more conducive to wisdom than others, but that doesn’t make them automatically correct.

Altruism comes with emotions and I would far rather live in an altruistic society than the capitalist one we do live in.

Murder is Murder

Hypatia was slaughtered by a Christian mob in Egypt. They thought they were doing god’s work as she was a scientist and a woman who taught student. We can look back with horror and argue they were wrong without, I think, looking at ourselves.

Plato talks about essences and attributes. Attributes are things that change about something in our world, the colour, size, shape of a thing (in his example a table.) We all have trouble thinking about essences, what makes a table a table that doesn’t change from one to another.

So we put men in uniform and we don’t call what they do murder. We herd cattle into farms and into slaughter houses and we don’t call it murder. Our enemies blow people up and we call it murder but they don’t.

We can always find excuses to miss the essence of sheathing we do because attributes blind us with their reasoned traditional acceptance.

Human beings murder, we do it without regard and we are all invested in it to some extent. Every abattoir is an Auschwitz and the thought and processes that make them a reality can be turned in an instant to murder people instead of animals.

We have been trying to reason ourselves out of this for generations but if we took a journey across the world we would conclude we are far distant from stopping murder. So far distant that we would not be in error to conclude part of the essence of being human is to kill things.


I am of Hebraic Dravidian extraction. I have seen the scenes in Charlottesville  and actually have colleagues in Virginia.

It was a strange lesson but many people go through as they mature, to realise at the point of my birth about a billion people existed on the earth who would have stomped my head into the ground and thought they had done a good day’s work. Too big a figure? I ask you to consider the relevance of millions of people who today are doing exactly what they did yesterday instead of picketing the houses of the members of the alt-right in their millions. Liberal outrage is never enough, action has to be taken.

Fascism has always existed in the USA. It was built of extremely fascist principles. So, actually, has every country. Everyone has killed other people, and each other, to build the countries we now have and the killing still proceeds. In this we are worse than animals. But we have history behind us, we know where this leads. War.

It never leads anywhere else. Plato warned that societies don’t level out into a political consensus but that left and right politics flow into each other like waves. The right is flowing in. It isn’t challenging the political left, it is drowning it.

Ages Past Are Ages Shared

I doubt there is anyone who has been disenchanted by their Times who has not wished to live in another time or another place. Hearkening back to a period of quietness, or simplicity and there are times when I have wondered where I would like to have been and in what age. Yet when I do I always come back to the same questions: would I like to live in a world where Plato has not thought about the world, where Shakespeare has not written about human ego, where Michelangelo has not carved human characteristics into marble. Do I want to live and never read the hundreds of minds that are open to me to read, to share their insights into life?

I find in every age many things that are admirable and even preferable to today but I cannot leave behind the history of thought. The great pain for every thinker in the world is not that we die, but that we will never know. Think of the things Aristotle would have loved to know that I know. Think of the things we will never know.

The human race is a builder; as much as chemicals build life, we build ideas. Some are very bad like infections but some are wonderful. I will never know all the wonderful ideas the human race will have, so I am loath to give up any of the ones I  have inherited.

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February 2019
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