Setting one’s heart right

When it is said that the will becomes sincere when there is knowledge, the reference is to self-knowledge, and the point is that one who has self-knowledge will not deceive himself about the motives and principles of his actions. Thus it is said, “What is meant by making the will sincere is that one should not deceive himself.”

People should not try to deceive themselves that if they do something in private no one will know and therefore it is all right. The wrong action will be known to the one who commits it immediately, and soon the effects will be known to others as well.

Corruptness of private character does not remain purely private—a person does not live in isolation—but affects, and is affected by, the whole community of human beings.

When someone is upset by worries and cares, or is overcome with passions, his or her heart is disturbed. This person is hardly in a position to make fair and just decisions concerning any matters, personal or public.

When, on the other hand, “the heart is set right,” one avoids the excesses of defects that affect one’s ability to make good decisions. That is why Confucius says, “The cultivation of the personal life depends on setting one’s heart right.”

With the proper attitude toward life a person will remain calm even in joy and sorrow and will be able to live a good personal life.

Koller, John M. Oriental Philosophies. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1970. 273. Print.


divine command theory

Plato’s writings were in the form of dialogues, usually between Socrates and one or more interlocutors. In one of these dialogues, Euthyphro, there is a discussion concerning whether “right” can be defined as “that which the gods command.” Socrates is skeptical and asks: Is conduct right because the gods command it, or do the gods command it because it is right? It is one of the most famous quotations in the history of philosophy. The contemporary British philosopher Antony Flew suggests that “one good test of a person’s aptitude for philosophy is to discover whether he can grasp its force and point.”

Rachels, James. The Elements of Moral Philosophy. New York: Random House, 1986. 42. Print.


immediate fulfillment

Accustomed to the peaceful, she turned in reaction to the picturesque. She loved the sea only for its storms, green foliage only when it was scattered amid ruins. It was necessary for her to derive a sort of personal profit from things, she rejected as useless whatever did not minister to her heart’s immediate fulfillment—being of a sentimental rather than an artistic temperament, in search of emotions, not of scenery.

—Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (1857)


the essence of Harold

Harold Ramis

Patton Oswalt: We lost Harold Ramis this year. He’s gone.

Judd Apatow: He made the majority of the movies that made me want to be in comedy. When I was a kid, Ghostbusters was like Gone With the Wind. The night it opened, I went to see it at the UA Plainview on Long Island, and it was like going to see the Who. The place went crazy from the minute it started.

PO: Yeah, that was Star Wars for comedians. It was big and crazy and still funny and intimate and human.

JA: And then he pulled off one of the great comedies of all time, Groundhog Day.

PO: No, I’m sorry, that’s not one of the great comedies of all time, that’s just one of the great films. That’s a great movie that happens to be a comedy.

JA: It was the essence of Harold and what he believed. That affected me in a big way, because I had never thought about any of those ideas when Groundhog Day came out. My parents weren’t religious; they didn’t even talk about religion to say they weren’t into religion. When I said I wanted to be bar-mitzvahed, they said, “You just want the money.” They didn’t let me do it. I mean, their only religion was “No one said life was fair.” So I got zero religion. And in that movie, you got what Harold believed in. And what Harold believed in was very simple—that this is probably it, so why not be a great guy?

PO: You see it in his films. His films make you feel better about the world when you’re done.

JA: Also, he boiled it down to something so simple, and it is my life philosophy—don’t be a dick.

“The Lives They Lived.” The New York Times. 23 Dec. 2014.

(Photo: Chris Walker/The Chicago Tribune)



humanistic individualism

The members of this group do not make a global judgement on the human situation and found a universal attitude upon it which they strive to realize in every act and relationship and response of daily existence, an heroic attempt to be equal to the worst in human fate and private lot by anticipation.

They are readier naïvely to take happiness and success at their face value. They are intent on achievement rather than transcendence, on careers rather than inwardness. The pleasures and opportunities, the promise and possibilities of human life in the world engage their interest and their energies.

The world offers them raw material and they are confident in their powers. They seek to know the world in order to adapt it to their needs, their desires, their designs, rather than in order to adapt themselves to its inexorable requirements; they survey the obstacles in order to remove them, and do not submit to them in order to surmount them.

With them, ‘mankind has not learned to renounce anything, has not outgrown the instinctive egotism and optimism of the young animal, and has not removed the centre of its being, or of its faith, from the will to the imagination.’ The risks they run and the responsibilities they take in their solitary individualism are not the responsibilities and risks of a philosophic choice of life which goes against all appearances, or does not dare to, but the responsibilities and risks of trusting to their judgement and capacities in practical ventures.

They do not accept life, nor do they reject it: they handle it.

Blackham, H. J. The Human Tradition. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1953. 22324. Print.


Pieter Geyl

When Pieter Catharinus Arie Geyl (1887–1966), one of the Netherlands’ foremost historians, was interred in a concentration camp because of his ‘suspect general mentality,’ he wrote the following poem. The sonnet “contains my philosophy, and colors my historical thinking,” Geyl once remarked before reciting his piece to Ved Mehta, staff writer for The New Yorker.

The stars are frightening. The cold universe / Boundless and silent, goes revolving on / Worlds without end. The grace of God is gone.

A vast indifference, deadlier than a curse / Chills our poor globe, which Heaven seemed to nurse / So fondly. ‘Twas God’s rainbow when it shone / Until we searched.

Now, as we count and con / Gusts of infinity, our hopes disperse.

Well, if it’s so, then turn your eyes away / From Heav’n. Look at the earth, in its array / Of life and beauty. — / Transitory? Maybe, / But so are you.

Let stark eternity / Heed its own self, and you, enjoy your day, / And when death calls, then quietly obey.