We Know Nothing

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Tyche, the Greek Goddess of Luck

The hallmark of the Hellenistic era was chaos due to the deteriorating political influence of the city states and countless ruinous wars among autocratic rulers. That Tyche, the mercurial goddess of chance, was highly venerated everywhere, clearly indicates the instability of the time. Hellenistic people were deeply cognizant of the omnipresence of contingency in their lives.

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In the beginning… there was Nothing.

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Nothing at all. Our relationship with death has profoundly shaped Western culture. A pervasive death consciousness has created religions, nourished philosophies and eventually stimulated scientific investigation, as well as fueled fanaticism, a brooding and melancholic pessimism, which resulted in nihilistic conclusions. Such nihilistic sentiments are far more than merely isolated occurrences, pervasive although manifesting in various guises. Continue reading In the beginning… there was Nothing.

The Great Philosophical Divide in Science Fiction

TomorrowLand Concept art

Life without utopia is suffocating, for the multitude at least: threatened otherwise with petrifaction, the world must have a new madness. — Cioran, History and Utopia

There’s a fault line running in science fiction that predates it: the Great Optimism -Pessimism divide. The most obvious trope of each is the role of utopia/dystopia in the science fiction work, but that is slightly more complicated than it appears.

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Break On Through (Schopenhauer) to the Other Side!

O sweet & deadly nihilism, what cruel beauty…
Of the four flavors of psychological states,
Three intoxicants are poisonous
Naturally & culturally, individually & socially!

First venomous flavor is the cockcrow
Of arrant meaninglessness–
A failure of Grand Purpose,
Promises a bitter aftertaste of 
Discouragement & melancholia!


Second rancorous flavor is the faith
In some conjectural Everything, a great Chain of Being;
A cosmic guarantor of infinite worth!
Woe unto he who loses his faith,
for he loses his own self-worth too!

Third malignant flavor is the visceral gasp
At the infinite flux, absent a safe respite;
Nothing to do but condemn all
For the sake of some Cloud Cuckoo Land,
That has no staying power whatsoever!

And the Fourth flavor? Curiously,
Neither aim, nor unity, nor Being apply!
Nothing left but a brand new tomorrow
Freed of crumbling relics & monuments of yesteryear!
Freed at last to create new selves, new worlds, new futures!

Leopardi and pessimism

 

Leopardi, wondering if he left the TV on....
Leopardi, wondering if he left the TV on….

 

Giacomo Leopardi is one of the greatest secrets of 19th century poetry. Despite being heralded by luminaries like Schopenhauer1 and Nietzsche, his fame remains scattered in Europe and hardly extends to the American hemisphere. Leopardi’s Zibaldone di pensieri2 was read by every school kid but they barely cracked open his Operette Morali.3 The likely culprit is an irredeemable pessimism that was too difficult for interpreters to connect it to contemporary issues. Leopardi wrote mostly moral essays, parables, fables, and dialogues – painting life as a joke of the gods – a darkly comic view of world and its inhabitants. However, instead of leaving the reader sad and pathetic, they are actually funny.  Continue reading Leopardi and pessimism

“Consciousness… the dagger in the flesh.” An essay on Cioran

Cioran, by Awet Moges

After 7 years, I was burned out by philosophy, yet I continued to haunt the philosophy section in search for anything radical and profound. Amidst the expected titles commonly found at any bookstore, sat A Short History of Decay. I pulled it off the shelf in the faint hopes of killing time until the cigar shop opened in 20 minutes. After a couple of hours disappeared savoring the salacious prose, I begrudgingly closed the book and hurried to the checkout counter, cackling in glee in the wonderful fortune of uncovering a new thinker that spoke blasphemous music to my eyes.

Continue reading “Consciousness… the dagger in the flesh.” An essay on Cioran

Sisyphus Shrugged: An essay on Myth of Sisyphus

by Awet Moges

At the end of the 1949 film, Sands of Iwo Jima, after the US soldiers survive a battle, Marine Sergeant John Stryker (John Wayne) tells his fellow comrades in the trench that he’s never felt so good in his life.  He asks them if they want a cigarette, and then he gets killed immediately by a sniper. Later, the others find a letter on his body that contains many things John Stryker planned to say, but never did. Absurd, I thought, when I first saw this movie. I was expecting a happy ending to the movie because the protagonists always survived the climax. I couldn’t help but be reminded of that scene when I read Albert Camus’ essay on the absurd, The Myth of Sisyphus. In this essay I will break down the concepts of the absurd, eluding, suicide and eluding, and make a few observations of my own. Continue reading Sisyphus Shrugged: An essay on Myth of Sisyphus

Philosophy of the Gods, part II

(For part one, go here)

ELDER GODS

Mamacocha and Isis, by Awet Moges

Their immortal hearts have been seared and hardened by an insurmountable evil that makes them immune to all fantasies & hallucinations of gods who still believe in ideals. Elder gods reject Cartaphilus, that dangerous prophet, and the most audacious thinker of delirious times.

The elder gods are typically radical skeptics & lovers of doubt. Instead of an impetuous glorification of life, these elders have a disillusioned outlook that considers themselves to be superior skeptics and exorcists of all certainty & conviction. Their observations are fueled with the abysmal mechanisms of doubt – an antiseptic that pacifies the spirit and detaches it from any vital stakes. Continue reading Philosophy of the Gods, part II

History according to pessimism

Marvin, the pessimistic android

After hearing about Fukuyama’s End of History thesis, I began to wonder:

Were there truly an “end” of history, a post-history, the possibility of all events coming to an end, who would be a competent historian to observe this end of all cycles?

This does not refer to theoreticians of the “end of history,” but of a different type – a true historian looking back after all histories had ended, a post-historian observing that there are no more events to record, except perhaps the act of recording for the unknown readers of the future. The end of history is the end of the fall into time – when man became historical after being exiled from paradise. Continue reading History according to pessimism

Does pleasure consists of positive existence?

Delush!

How can pleasure “lack” positive existence? It is indeed the case that our simple common sense seem to attribute positive experience to pleasure and negative experience to pain, that they are the opposite ends of a sliding scale of experience. Continue reading Does pleasure consists of positive existence?