In the second (and concluding) part of the series, we continue looking at ideas offered by Western Philosophers, ideas that are meant to inspire the heart and lift some weight and weirdness off it.
‘Aus so krummem Holze, als woraus der Mensch gemacht ist, kann nichts ganz Gerades gezimmert werden’ (out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made)
So wrote the eighteenth century German Philosopher Immanuel Kant. He understood that whatever fell out of the hands and the minds of a human was ought to be slightly wonky since we are made up of as much instinct and irrationality as we are made of reason and restraint. This particular saying of his actually wanted to warn us against running after perfectionism in our lives.
When it comes to a lover, his words warn us against expecting everything – money, love, good sex – from a single person. When it comes to a government, his words warn us against expecting an institution without a single blot. When it comes to our lives, his words encourage us to be grounded in our real nature as humans. And an acceptance of such nature brings some generosity and some old good dark humour. Who doesn’t like the sound of that?
‘Peccatum Originale’ (original sin)
St Augustine believed that the human nature was inherently tainted and damaged because of the original sin that was committed by Eve, the mother of all creatures, in the Garden of Eden when she ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Her guilt was passed down, into the blood of the future generations who are now bound to fail, considering they are the children of such a faulty mother.
This idea might sound absurd when taken at its face value. But when seen as a metaphor, it helps us understand that not much can be expected from the human race since we’re pretty doomed right from the beginning. And that, in certain situations, can be a highly comforting redemptive thought to recall.
‘Sub specie aeternitatis’ (under the aspect of eternity)
Put forth by the Dutch Philosopher Baruch Spinoza, this phrase encourages us to look at our pain and suffering ‘under the aspect of eternity,’ that is, as though we were gazing down at the earth from very far away or from a different star (his interpretation was indeed inspired by Galileo). From this perspective, the things that trouble us do not appear to be as troublesome as they did earlier, their hurtfulness seems to go down as soon as we see the bigger picture.
As humans, we are bound to exaggerate every now and then. But we also have the choice to reframe our perspective in order to lift our spirits!
And with this, we come to an end of The Best Of Western Philosophy!