Saturday, April 25, 2009

ROSEBUD

John Updike, one of the world's greatest and most highly regarded writers, died in January at the age of 76. From the day he graduated summa cum laude from Harvard, Updike worked tirelessly to produce (in the words of his New York Times obituary) "a body of fiction, verse, essays and criticism so vast, protean and lyrical as to place him in the first rank of American authors." It's hard to imagine a life more productive.

Here are just some of the international awards he received for his brilliant work:


1959 Guggenheim Fellow
1959 National Institute of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Award
1964 National Book Award for Fiction
1965 Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger
1966 O. Henry Prize
1981 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
1982 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
1982 National Book Award for Fiction
1982 Union League Club Abraham Lincoln Award
1983 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism
1984 National Arts Club Medal of Honor
1987 St. Louis Literary Award
1987 Ambassador Book Award
1988 PEN/Malamud Award
1989 National Medal of Arts
1990 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
1991 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
1991 O. Henry Prize
1992 Honorary Doctor of Letters from Harvard University
1995 William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters
1995 Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
1997 Ambassador Book Award
1998 National Book Award Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters
2003 National Humanities Medal
2004 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
2006 Rea Award for the Short Story
2007 American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Fiction
2008 Jefferson Lecture

Updike wrote over 60 books during his lifetime. In his last months, as he knew he was dying, he completed one last book, a final collection of poems entitled Endpoint. One reviewer wrote,

In their last years, many artists cast aside all their usual flourishes, dismiss the circus animals and simply set down, as directly as possible, the realities and inevitabilities of old age. So John Updike has done in this moving book of poems.
So putting aside all the wealth and fame and world travel, what lesson does Updike have for us about the true nature of happiness? Updike writes:

To copy comic strips, stretched prone upon the musty carpet--
Mickey's ears, the curl in Donald's bill,
The bulbous nose of Barney Google, Captain Easy's squint--
What bliss!

Seems like you can either start working on that first Guggenheim fellowship, or you can pull out your pencil.

31 Comments:

Blogger Dominic Bugatto said...

Great quote ..... now where's my pencil.

4/25/2009 8:36 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

I just finished reading "S" and he had me at the first sentence. Every time I put the book down I would exclaim..."damn, that guy can write."

I'm pleased that he mentioned Barney Google (with the goo-goo-googley eyes) to an audience for whom the name is only an online megalith. Now if someone will explain what a snood (a 40's fashion hairnet) has to do with whatever that online thing is.

Please don't tweet me or text me the answer. ;-)

4/25/2009 9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So the true nature of happiness is to degrade back to the mentality of a small child? That sounds to me like someone whose mind has been worn down to almost nothing after a lifetime of confusion. Those are the kinds of people that win awards.

4/26/2009 11:04 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

No, "the true nature of happiness" to first graduate Summa from Harvard (back before grade inflating days), win a Guggenheim, a sack full of Pulitzers and just about every award ever offered, plus produce more books than you likely have read (no fair quoting rock lyrics and Sharper Image copy as gems of philosophy). Once you've done that, then you're poised to degrade back to the mentality of a small child. To degrade to that child's mentality from a position of never being published and other milestones of mediocrity (paying your MasterCard on time does not elevate you to any pantheon of worth) is not that far from a dependent child's mentality.

Updike was an artist to his fingertips. If he chose to "degrade" to the aspect of a child (Picasso, the 20th century's towering artist sought to do just that for most of his career) is something well beyond the understanding of those doomed to cast a very small shadow in life.

4/27/2009 3:01 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Rob, you are a real pistol!

4/27/2009 3:07 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

"Rosebud" -- the perfect title for this post. Brilliant and thoughtful as always David, a joy to read.

4/27/2009 3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, all you have really said is that a man cannot hope to assess his own value or lack of it without approval or rejection from other people.

All the awards and published books in the world can never rid you of the responsibility to determine whether you or the people who kiss your ass really know what you're talking about. People who can't live without the approval of others are stuck in an adolescent state of mind at best. From there, the regression to an infant mentality is a short skip away.

Your idea of happiness amounts to not much more than being a blushing homecoming queen. That's pretty shallow.

4/28/2009 5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you, David. Rob Howard does crack like a pistol. Unfortunately for us all, he only shoots blanks.

4/28/2009 5:43 PM  
Blogger Jack R said...

Wow, there are some people who read this who seem to have lost or never experienced the unalloyed and elemental pleasure of simply drawing, be it copying a comic strip or expressing line and value in a live drawing session. They just don't get it, or maybe it's me who doesn't.

4/28/2009 8:28 PM  
Anonymous Jack Ruttan said...

I wish Updike had cartooned more. I think it's getting more respect these days....

(Enjoyed his writing. Thanks for posting on him.)

4/28/2009 9:23 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

Ah yes, the famed courage exhibited by the internet's most prolific commentator, Anonymous. Have you ever notice that one Anonymous never criticizes another Anonymous? It's as though there's an unspoken law of a hidden Salon d'Anonymée where they all lurk in private shadows, thumping their chests in faux bravery.

Ibid

4/29/2009 8:47 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

"Rob, all you have really said is that a man cannot hope to assess his own value or lack of it without approval or rejection from other people."

Yes, Anon (may I call you by what your anonymous friends call you?) I am so much like the rest of the world in that regard, not nearly elevated to the onanist's anonymous and hidden pleasures.

This may come as a shocking revelation but the entire of civilization is built on mutual appreciation and lauding success. Welfare rolls have none of that. The Great Book of Losers has none of that, but the people who have built the cities, written the books, plays and poems, painted the pictures, invented the devices andmedicines are almost universal in pursuing the plaudits of others, be they medals, awards or applause.

They are not nearly as elevated and self-contained as your anonymity claims. As Jacqueline Susann said of those like you (given to clandestine and solitary pursuits in the darkness) about Roth after reading Portnoy's Complaint..."good writer but I wouldn't shake his hand." I too, avoid touching the Anonymous among us. In these days of frightening news releases from the CDC, you never know where they've been and if they've washed their hand...such is the curse of anonymity.

Heironymous

4/29/2009 9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wrong again Howard. I criticize myself all the time. It's the secret of my success.

And you're also wrong about civilization being built on "mutual appreciation and lauding success" (aka ass-kissing). That's idiotic. Civilization is built upon great ideas. Ideas are great whether they are appreciated or not. Even an arrogant fool who signs his name on every spontaneously regurgitated piece of hollow erudition can take advantage of great ideas whose sources have long been forgotten.

You seem to be confusing civilization with society. Society is where all the ass-kissing takes place. I'm sure you can do pretty well at social gatherings. So could I. All I'd have to do is turn off my brain.

Civilization is a work in progress. Society is a padded room for idiots where staleness like yours can easily dominate. Civilization might crumble to the ground at any moment. Thankfully, the glitter of society can distract almost anyone from the urgency of this possibility.

If a man is a good writer and knows it, why the hell would he care who will or won't shake his hand?

The things you say and supposedly believe would be amusing if you were twelve years old, Rob.

4/30/2009 12:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I almost forgot. May I call you Rob, like your mommy and daddy did?

4/30/2009 12:27 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Ummmm... Anonymous, can I offer you a bit of wisdom for the ages from that great movie, "Bad Day At Black Rock" with Spencer Tracy and Robert Ryan:

"A man is about as big as what it takes to make him mad."

4/30/2009 9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks David, but I don't recommend getting your wisdom from the movies.

And who's mad? Do you really think it takes anger or insanity to know when the bread's gone stale? Rob Howard isn't big enough to make me mad.

4/30/2009 2:38 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

David, among the many readable books by Updike is one particularly germane to this forum...Still Looking, Updike's essays on art, less from the standpoint of an art critic than that of an adept (he did study drawing and cartooning at Ruskin).
While I don't agree with all of his denunciations of Abstract Expressionism, he makes solid points when writing about it's later stages. Ah, but when he writes about Arthur Dove and Winslow Homer, then we're in total accord.

5/01/2009 8:29 PM  
Blogger OMWO said...

Damn...

I suddenly recalled all those japanese legends about cursed swords that demand blood all the time. There were so many (justifiable and interesting) word fights in this place that somehow it became tainted and people just start shooting over nothing. I recommend that everyone just take a break and draw some Mickey's ears for a bit.

Rob, I might not agree with you on everything (cough...modern art...cough...) but I enjoy your pugnacious posts, and above all I had to come here today to say this: I bought your book last week (the illustrator's bible) and...well...thank you for writing it, that's all!

Just Thank you!

to the anonymous: I agree that the applause of society doesn't prove you are a genius. But let's not forget that the lack of it doesn't either. And if the collective mind may and does very often judge a man badly, he also can misjudge himself. Isolation can be a dangerous thing. I knew a couple of brilliant people who closed themselves too much and they actually thought they were doing progress, and they weren't. To be precise, they were at first gaining more headway in their reclusiveness - doing away with nonsense and the constant demands of fools - but little by little the negative aspects of isolation took over. They slowed down, then stalled, and because they lacked an external reference, they never noticed they had crashed. They lost the very notion of time.

I don't presume I know the solution, I suffered from the same problem myself - a tendency to isolate myself too much and lose bearings. After a while I learned at my expense to force myself to come out and "be social" on a regular basis (though choosing well my company - there's no reason to go slumming!) even if I am unsure of the value of it - simply because I know that losing balance is dangerous and that you just can't trust yourself too much - if you learn psichology you'll find that your own mind can be just as self-deceiving and sycophantic towards itself as the worse crowd of boot lickers.

Furthermore, a really superior mind can be both profound an social. Since I work in mathematics, I know my share of brilliant, reclusive, anti-social minds. There is a great deal of pain mixed with brilliance of that sort. A truly superior mind should be able to handle society in it's stride, and communicate easily with others so that its value will be understood - with all the advantages that might bring to all parties. People who just resign to growl at the unfairness and stupidity of society have just given up on that problem which a truly superior mind would be able to solve. I am not saying they are worse than those around them, nor that they have not sometimes achieved something far greater and worthy of the sacrifice, I am just saying that that aspect of their lives is a failure, not a cause for pride, and that that sacrifice is undesirable and should not be revered. There is great evil being perpetrated on a lot of smart young people because of the romantic notion of the misunderstood genius. We should aim at the full genius, who walks assuredly in all ways, and threads through society with as much ease as through his philosophy. Happyness is not a shameful thing.

5/02/2009 6:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMWO:

I never said that the lack of approval proves you are a genius. That would be just as ridiculous as thinking that universal acceptance makes you a genius.

Society can only appreciate that which provides pleasure for it in the way of entertainment (flattery, escapism, distraction) or relief of manual labor. Talent (no matter how great) and ingenuity are almost always directed at either of these two goals.

I make a very clear distinction between talent and Genius. Genius, if it is to mean anything, can only be an extreme level of consciousness that goes far beyond what is normally accepted in society, which is ruled by opinions. It is cultivated in the individual by the apprehension of absolute truth; that which transcends personal opinion. The mind has to become as purely logical as possible before it can reach the level of Genius. This means that it can't make any assumptions at all. The Genius directs his thoughts and actions towards the whole of existence. He has no interest in specialization of any kind. He has to accept what is undeniably, logically true, no matter how much pain it brings to himself or others. He values the truth simply because it happens to be the truth. Whether or not his values are matched by the society he lives in is of no importance.

So it really doesn't matter to him if he becomes isolated from other people. If he is a true Genius, he has something far more valuable than friends, social status or even life itself. He has no desire for longevity. He knows his true nature is the Infinite, which is immortal.

I agree that a "truly superior mind" has nothing to fear from society. Society doesn't cause him any pain because he can't take it seriously to begin with. A Genius is never lonely, on the contrary, he basks in solitude. There's no reason to take pride in that, it's just where he's able to do his best work. He may talk to other people but he knows they won't understand him unless they happen to be Geniuses as well.

You said:

"that aspect of their lives is a failure, not a cause for pride, and that that sacrifice is undesirable and should not be revered."

You really have no right to say what is a worthwhile sacrifice for someone else, especially since you don't understand what they are getting in return for it. You may be right if the person is an idiot or a confused person with a high IQ but not if the person is a Genius.

"Happyness is not a shameful thing."

That's for the individual to decide.

5/03/2009 4:32 AM  
Blogger OMWO said...

Anonimous,

but you are presupposing a very particular type of individual and excluding all others. I don't really mind that you take the world "genius" to mean that, but then you are talking of different things. How many real individuals in that set? Is it not just a goal rather than an actuality? I was addressing problems that real, quite extraordinary people, face everyday. You are talking about the superman ideal. Can you give me a single historical example of an individual that reached such heights in your opinion so that I can at least get an anchor on what you truly mean?

On the surface what you describe reminds me of a character of Ayn Rand's utopia in Atlas shrugged, but note that even those strive for companionship, among their own kind. So society of a kind is a concern.

I don't know how to say this without being presumptuous so I'll just say it because I hope you will appreciate it is just my best guess. You sound exactly like one of my friends I referred to. You seem to think you can reach the heights by an exercise in impecability. But the true shape of rational thought might not be what it seems, and impecability of a different kind might be needed. Here is something for you to consider:

>The mind has to become as purely >logical as possible before it can reach >the level of Genius. This means that it >can't make any assumptions at all.

This is the perfect illustration of what I said. What you don't know is that you are being illogical when you make these two statements in succession. If you are to reason logically you have to start from assumptions, and what you deduce is only as valid as they are. Ah, but you say you will only start from absolute truths? Even granting any of those exist, they will certainly be few. Then the space of propositions that you can reach from them will be a small subset of the total. This is the trap of avoiding the unclean too much. If your reasoning purges too much at start you will always remain clean, but you will be stunted. From the top of the clouds you simply cannot reach too far.

The only way to improve your reach is to deal in your reasonings with propositions whose logical value you don't know. It can be proved that the only rational extension of logic to propositions of unknown value is the formalism called Bayesian probability. (If you want a tool of thought to really widen your field of view try that - search the web for "E T Jaynes - probability, the logic of science" and read the proof of Cox).

Now, here's the thing: In probabilistic logic, you simply cannot start a reasoning without assuming things you cannot be sure of. And you cannot reach certainty either in your conclusions, only "the best guess given my initial assumptions and a rational assessment of its degree of certainty".

So, here is the trap: Either you are too pure, starting only with axioms of probability=1 and dealing only with modus ponens (and thein your reasoning is stunted and won't reach far) or you have to deal with uncertain assumptions reasoned upon with bayes rule (which is the generalization of modus ponens to uncertainty) and you can no longer claim the absolutes you refer to.

My personal answer, as far as I can see: to be stunted is worse. To reason in such terms only is to be in fact a mental specialist, with all the problems of being a specialist, and yet you say

>He has no interest in specialization of >any kind.

So again, contradiction.

And you know, again, there is a difference between being a specialist and an expert. A great mistake it to fear specialization so much that you never become an expert. And there is a certain kind of depth that you only reach when you have crossed the barrier of expertise at something. Almost doesn't matter what, what matters is the inner strenght that comes from having crossed one such barrier. Again, you can avoid the peril of specialization, and you get stunted, or you can face it, and risk getting corrupted and confined by specialization like many do. There is no path both fruitful and certain, you have to dirty yout hands and risk your purity, if you want to progress.

I keep thinking: why choose? It is not important to always follow the clean certain path in your reasonings. What matters is to always be clear in your head when you are and when you are not doing it.

In a good mathematics book, of the French school, you have only a clear flow of statements and logic, never any appeal to dirty intuition, hand waving, or diagrams. That is a beautiful thing. It is also brain damaging to do it all the time. In a really *excellent* mathematics book you have both the flow of clear statements, and, on the side, the dirtiest of leaps of faith, hand wavings, even enlightening contradictions and random musings the author has a hunch may mean something or, even not meaning anything, may unleash something in the mind of the reeader. What makes the book excellent is that he keeps both things side by side but without interfering with each other too much. How much is too much? Ah, life is bayesian, you can never be sure, what defines valour in men is that, though unsure, you still press ahead and do the damn work.

It came to my mind right now, Frank Herbert was very good at understanding the limitations of the various pure ways of thought. His whole fiction work can be seen as an essay on that. I think he said something like:

There is nothing worse than the clear safe path that allows for no mistakes and aims at a predetermined end: that leads to stagnation.

The quote is not exact, but I'll leave it like that as a bow to the Gods of uncertainty :)

5/03/2009 6:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughtful response, OMWO.

Yes, I am describing a very particular type of individual. What use does a serious person have for vague conceptions or categories?

You said:

"How many real individuals in that set? Is it not just a goal rather than an actuality?"

It doesn't matter if any actual Geniuses exist, the possibility is there as long as consciousness exists. Something that is just a goal has to have a real possibility of becoming an actuality or it's ridiculous to strive for it. When I look at the past, I see a few individuals that reached a level of consciousness high enough to qualify as Geniuses. Take the Buddha for example, or Jesus (not the watered down, religious version). I doubt that they were perfect in their actions at all times but they appear to have had a complete understanding of metaphysics and ontology or else they would never have said the things they said with that high degree of consistency. It's actually not that difficult to arrive at the same fundamental knowledge that people like Jesus or the Buddha had. The difficulty comes in applying this knowledge to your own life, that is the work of a lifetime, or the "goal" as you would call it. Most people never get started in this. They can't even take the first step, which is a valuing of truth.

"If you are to reason logically you have to start from assumptions"

This is true for science, not philosophy. You can never arrive at a perfect metaphysics if you make any assumptions. What assumptions did the Buddha make?

"you say you will only start from absolute truths? Even granting any of those exist, they will certainly be few"

There are countless absolute truths. 2+2=4 is one of them. But I only need one to start thinking perfectly about reality, and that's the Law of Identity; A=A. Any philosophical statement, if it is truly logical, always reduces down to this.

"there is a difference between being a specialist and an expert. A great mistake it to fear specialization so much that you never become an expert."

A Genius is an expert in logic as it applies to metaphysics and ontology. These are the most far-reaching concerns. When I said that he has no interest in specialization, I meant that he isn't very interested in more limited areas of investigation.

"There is no path both fruitful and certain, you have to dirty yout hands and risk your purity, if you want to progress."

The spiritual path, which is where the Genius inevitably has to go is both certain and fruitful. Only he can experience either since it's a subjective experience. He's not "risking" his purity. No one ever starts life with any purity in the sense that they live in perfect accord with Truth. Genius is the only quality that allows one to approach purity or to even have a realistic definition of what purity could possibly be.

"life is bayesian, you can never be sure"

Are you sure about that?

5/03/2009 11:43 AM  
Blogger OMWO said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/03/2009 2:49 PM  
Blogger OMWO said...

>Something that is just a goal has to have >a real possibility of becoming an >actuality or it's ridiculous to strive >for it.

Not really. It's like the concept of limit in mathematics. When the limit is at infinity you could say "there is no limit". But experience shows that defining the point at infinity allows you to understand things that you wouldn't see otherwise. In the same way, even if the concept you are calling "genius" could not be attained it might be useful to define it. The point you cannot reach can still provide a direction you can follow. Reciprocally, the point is defined by the direction. Suppose that "genius" was something that you could not reach yet could get arbitrarily close to. It is useful to define the point at the limit. In topology that is called taking the closure.

>There are countless absolute truths. >2+2=4 is one of them.

I grant you the infinite number of such mathematical truths. But still they are few in the sense that what you can prove from them by strict logic is a small region of the total space of propositions you can make about the world. They are few in the same sense that integers, though infinite in number, are few in the space of all real numbers.

>life is bayesian, you can never be sure"

>Are you sure about that?

Nice. :)

But yes, actually Cox's theorem still belongs to the space of those truths that can be demonstrated through strict logic from mathematical axioms. So, in that sense (and barring the possibility of a mistake in the proof or an inconsistency in mathematics itself) I am sure that if I want to reason rationally about uncertain truths (which includes most things starting from observations of the real world) then I have to take recourse to probability, and from then on, certainty goes, certainly, out the window.

You know, there are dangers even within the bounds of philosophical thought. Much turns out to be just as much about language as about reality, and language is a dangerous thing. Even the strict language of mathematics can trick you (Russell's paradox and so on).

>This is true for science, not >philosophy.

Science is philosophy, though many philosophers and scientists are sadly forgetting it these days.

> You can never arrive at a >perfect metaphysics if you make any >assumptions.

Can you otherwise?

> What assumptions did the >Buddha make?

What conclusions did he reach?

Hey,
"How does the Buddha reason from no assumptions?"
makes a fine Koan!

If I cut enough out of it, it could probably make a nice haiku also :)

>Take the Buddha for example, or Jesus(...)
>I doubt that they were perfect in their >actions at all times

Hey, I am sure they weren't. But their biographers later took out the parts were they had fistfights with Rob Howard over at Lao Tse's blog :D

5/03/2009 2:52 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

Omwo, thanks for buying that book and thaks especially for the kind words. I don't know if you are aware that The Illustrators Bible is now a Google Preview Book. You can't see all of it but there's plenty that's available...and for free.

As for being pugnacious...nahh. I'm a sweety pie. I don't buy into the standard orthodoxy of predictable indoctrination inculcated under the guise of "education," but past having the annoying habit of pointing to cliché for what it is (there's only so many times one can hear the same thing repeated as though it was an original thought), I'm pleasant to be with.

Again, thanks for the kind words about that book...it's amazing that it stayed in print for 17 years.

5/03/2009 3:47 PM  
Blogger OMWO said...

Rob, English is not my first language, but at least in my mind "pugnacious" was a compliment! :)

As for the book, I know it is in google, that's how I found out about it, but I wanted to see the whole thing, so I bought it. There! Some evidence that google books can actually help sales after all!

About its age, I know some of the techniques are stuff that people don't want to use anymore for illustration - faster to do it in photoshop - but I love the feel of real materials (though I like photoshop too - just another material) but unfourtunately I didn't have a proper education in that regard, and you know how hard it can be if nobody shows you that kind of thing. In my country it is hard to get most materials (no prismacolors, and nobody in the stores seems to know what an illustration board is or what it's called in Portuguese). But just getting a proper description of the exotic materials and their use puts all sorts of ideas in your mind about different ways of using even those drab materials you already had. It also makes clearer what stuff is worth sending for from abroad -or coaxing the stores into getting - and what to do with it when it arrives! I don't know how many times I sat there facing a new material and just experimenting very carefully as if in a lab, studying alien remains, wasting precious resources just to find out how the hell I'm supposed to handle it.

Anyway, thanks once more, many books these days are just talk and no substance, but yours really is making a difference, at least to this ignorant amateur.

5/03/2009 9:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMWO:

Your use of mathematical jargon isn't useful in this context and is distracting instead of clarifying. I will limit myself to philosophical explanations since this is a philosophical discussion.

>>if the concept you are calling "genius" could not be attained it might be useful to define it.<<

It's useful to define it either way. There is no point in referring to things that you have not defined. Genius, as I define it, is perfectly attainable and even if one never reaches it, it's beneficial to give it a try since it requires an increase in consciousness. Unless of course, you're the type of person that would rather not know.

>>I grant you the infinite number of such mathematical truths. But still they are few in the sense that what you can prove from them by strict logic is a small region of the total space of propositions you can make about the world.<<

That's fine. Since the goal is attaining Genius, you only need the "propositions" or absolutes that will make that possible.

>>if I want to reason rationally about uncertain truths <<

A Genius doesn't do that. That's the domain of science.

>>Science is philosophy<<

No it isn't. Science does not deal in absolutes.

>>> You can never arrive at a >perfect metaphysics if you make any >assumptions.

Can you otherwise?<<

Yes, it's the only way to do it. A metaphysician or philosopher limits himself only to that which he can know with absolute certainty. He cannot fall into conjecture, that would be missing the point of what it means to be a real philosopher.


>>> What assumptions did the >Buddha make?

What conclusions did he reach?<<

The four noble truths (for starters)

1. Life is suffering, discontentment and imperfection.

2. The causes of suffering and discontentment are our false concepts of reality.

3. Freedom and perfection are possible by abandoning false concepts.

4. There is a path which can be followed to systematically get rid of false concepts.

>>"How does the Buddha reason from no assumptions?"<<

By using the Law of Identity (A=A).

>>Their biographers later took out the parts were they had fistfights with Rob Howard over at Lao Tse's blog :D<<

I see no reason to omit that "fistfight" from the record. I think of Rob as a more mundane version of the Pharisees. He may know all there is to know about illustration, but he doesn't know jack shit about philosophy.

5/04/2009 3:22 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>I think of Rob as a more mundane version of the Pharisees. He may know all there is to know about illustration, but he doesn't know jack shit about philosophy.<<

That is so true. I bow to your deep immersion in the jack shit of Philosophy.

I also bow to your discarding of accepted definitions of words such as genius and your creative definition(s). If nothing else, personal definitions remind us of the purity of early childhood, where we make up personal words and kindly adults strive to understand them.
One supposes that if a child were to grow to adulthood confined to the narrow enclave of their family, those personal definitions would take on the validity of an accepted language (the sort that has a dictionary). However, parading that same "baby talk" to a wider public can result in considerable misunderstanding.

Seeing that this is an illustration forum, allow me to tell you why so many illustrators become well-read...we have to read the books or stories we illustrate and we also have to do considerable research. For the curious mind, that is a broadening experience. Admittedly, with the information not being delivered in any particular order we often wind up with a disjointed gallimaufry of concepts but, for many of us, it does open doors we might not ordinarily seek. Without that broadening experience, we illustrators would simply slog through jack shit philosophies, speaking personal baby words.

5/04/2009 5:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not surprising that you regard Philosophy as shit, Rob. After all someone who agrees when someone else sums up life as "a cosmic joke in which most of us don't realize that we're part of the punch line" can't have made much headway into serious philosophical investigation.

All definitions are personal in the sense that the individual has to accept them as valid before he can make use of them. A word can mean different things within different contexts. That's the nature of language. Did the first man who ever defined anything fish around for consensus, before settling on a definition? No, he saw the value that his definitions had for the purpose that he intended them for. Anyone who disagreed with him either didn't understand his intent or had totally different goals.

If you look up the etymology of the word "genius" you'll find that it originally meant a guiding or guardian spirit that looked after the welfare of the human race. There can be no better way of doing that than by leading people away from delusion. That's the definition of Genius I use. Everything else is merely talent or cleverness.

5/04/2009 12:52 PM  
Blogger OMWO said...

anonymous, i must disagree with just about everything on the last post, but i am out of town and in a hurry. it'll have to wait a couple of days

5/04/2009 2:26 PM  
Blogger OMWO said...

anonymous, you dismiss too many things as irrelevant or jargon or "not-philosophy". The cut between philosophy and mathematics doesn't lie conveniently in that point were your personal knowledge of mathematics ends. I won't go through all of your post because you also are not paying attention to what I say. You use "of course", or "obviously" too many times - that's the usual mistake of a begginer in mathematics (or philosophy) jumping past the points were he should be most careful in a reasoning. An imperial flick of the wrist doesn't really make reality go away.

>What conclusions did he reach?<<
>The four noble truths (for >starters)

If you tell me how you deduce those things from "incontestable truths" I will show you were you are using modus ponens or assuming the result. Certainly it is not coming from the law of identity.

Here is a nice absolute truth: "just stating something doesn't make it so."

One funny point: Your "4 noble truths" were entertained at length by none other than Marcus Aurelius in his meditations. That was actualy his outlook on life, and he didn't need to spend his life dismissing everything else in order to reach them, becoming some derivative of an eastern hermit. He did it while keeping the quite busy day job of running an empire rather competently. Perhaps because of that connection to reality, he was not contemptuous of the hard won knowledge of craftsmen, nor of the sciences, and he realized that philosophy is the fulcrum where an adult sets his lever, not the hole where he hides from what he would rather not face.

The funny bit is that I notice Rob Howard lists the meditations of Marcus Aurelius as his favorite book. So you really should have much to discus with each other.

With this, I take my leave from this discussion. I was planning to address your points at length but your intervention on the post after this one made me realize I shouldn't waste that much time. Your behaviour by itself belies your stated lofty goals.

5/07/2009 6:04 AM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

I haven't posted anything on the "Drawing a Crowd" thread. I'll be using this ID to prevent any further confusion.

5/08/2009 12:09 AM  

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