Category Archives: Literature

Philosophy for life

In his book modernising the ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism (A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy), William Irvine proposes two criteria for a coherent philosophy of life. The first is to have an ultimate goal in living. Of the things that can be pursued in life, the ultimate goal is the one you find most valuable. It is a grand goal that sits at the top of a hierarchy and is something you would be unwilling to sacrifice in the pursuit of other ends. Without an ultimate goal, a philosophy of life is incoherent.

According to Irvine, the second component in a coherent philosophy of life is a strategy for achieving your ultimate goal. The strategy tells you how to go about your daily routine in a way that enhances your ability to achieve the thing in life that you define as the most valuable. Without an effective strategy you will likely fail to achieve your grand goal and so a coherent philosophy of life needs both an ultimate goal and the means to achieve it.

Everybody has a philosophy of life, it’s just that most people don’t think about it. For such an important topic, philosophy of life isn’t discussed at school, universities don’t offer courses, and treatment of these topics in popular culture is next to zero. Without proper consideration of this issue, the life philosophy foisted upon most people is enlightened hedonism. The ultimate goal in hedonism is pleasure and the ‘enlightened’ part refers to the strategy. An enlightened hedonist takes time to consider which pleasures they will pursue, at what time they would like to enjoy those pleasures, and the best method for obtaining them. Another thoughtless source of a semi-coherent life philosophy is an inherited religion. In a typical religion the goal is to obtain a good second life and the rules and precepts lay down the way to achieve that goal. Since everybody has a life philosophy the only difference between people is whether they have thought about their ultimate life goal or have just accepted it.

The biggest danger with having the wrong life philosophy is the chance that you will mislive. Despite all the things you did at the end of your life you will look back only to realise you did not live it the way you wanted to. Either you chased the wrong goal or, if you had the correct goal identified, you were unable to live up to it. As Irvine puts it “Instead of spending your life pursuing something genuinely valuable, you squandered it because you allowed yourself to be distracted by the various baubles life has to offer.” An enlightened hedonist may realise the pursued pleasures did not really bring what was most desired and the religionist may come to the understanding that their strategy will not bring eternal life after all. Without a suitable philosophy of life you will waste the one and only life you know you are going to get.

Some alternative answers to the philosophy of life question are: virtue, tranquility, happiness, connection, service, exploration, and usefulness. My suggestion to you is to find your own answer to the question “what do I want out of life?” Ultimately, your grand goal in living is the most important thing for you to discover. Understanding it will change your life – for the better.

A Short post on why i am prejudging the latest book by Norman Stone

Perhaps you may have missed it but earlier this month saw the publication of a new history on the Second World War by Norman Stone. As of yet i haven’t read the work so i cannot offer my opinion of it fully, but i am afraid i am the mood to prejudge the book in that i do not expect great things from it due to it’s length. Click on the Amazon link and you will see that it is a “Short history”, and what it means by that is the entire work is only approximately 270 pages long.

My prejudgment is based on a little bit of experience. Last year saw the release of another work, this time only 200 pages long (or 190 pages plus 6 pages of footnotes and 4 pages of select bibliography), which was a biography of Hitler by a certain A.N Wilson. Something which i have already described in these forums as “ridden with factual error” and “easily amongst the worst biographies of him that I’ve ever had the misfortune to come across, but then i also have the feeling this book was not aimed at a person like me.”

The book, like the current one from Norman Stone, was designed for a general audience, not for anyone who takes History seriously. Granted therefore we ought to judge it by some degree of looser standards compared to say some of the works i have often cited in my posts like the Biography written by Ian Kershaw or the Third Reich trilogy by Richard Evans but even so this was little excuse for the deep flaws of A.N Wilson’s book so brilliantly exposed here.

So i fear for the latest work by Norman Stone. The entire history of World War 2 is such a vast subject that in my opinion it simply cannot be covered within the space of 300 pages without omitting many of the details needed to make it a proper history of the Second World War.

This is the reason why i do not think i will be using it as a citation anytime soon. I have other works in my bookshelf such as Martin Gilbert’s “Second World War” which on page count alone is almost Three times as long as Stone’s book but my edition is also written on larger than average pages also.

(Image: A Size comparison. My copy of Martin Gilbert’s “Second World War” compared to my copy of Ian Kershaw’s “Nemesis” (pt2 of his biography of Hitler. “Hubris” or pt1 is virtually the same size) and also my copy of A.N Wilson’s “short biography of Hitler”)

I guess the final clincher in me deciding to use Stone’s work as a citation is me reading it, and i would like to hope i am wrong in my prejudgements here. But as i have laid out, i am not optimistic.

A Demon in the rough!

I believe i have caught our little Romanian friend being … lets just say “economical with the truth again”! Remember his ranting about apparent “atheist myths” in which the examples provided in that League of Reason thread at least turned out not to be so? Well he made a little video about it which what, is it meant to be another thing? Anyways one of the first things he pointed out was an atheist group misquoting Thomas Jefferson, which to be fair is a legitimate complaint. Seeing as I raised it too (in these forums). It may be useful to just keep it in mind.

With regards to the latter point, it seems our friend cannot quite hold himself to quite the same standard he uses to judge others (its hardly news to some I know). He recently made a video critiquing a Zomgitscriss video about “disproving god”, an expected enough thing for a theist to do right? I’m not going to dispute Vyck’s main case against Zomgitscriss here, that is not my Forte. I’ll leave that to someone else, if they dare.

What this post adressess instead is just one point of the video, perhaps a minor point yes, but one nonetheless. He asked about 1:25 into the video “why so angry?” to paraphrase before bringing up this obviously meant to be “suggestive” quotation as an answer:

“We shall unleash the Nihilists and Atheists, and we shall provoke a formidable social cataclysm which in all its horror will show clearly to the nations the effect of absolute atheism, origin of savagery and of the most bloody turmoil.” – Albert Pike’s letter to Manzini (August 15, 1871.)

VyckRo likes to parade himself as a beacon of “Christian rationalism” on youtube (its evident in the video). Ok sometimes he actually gets it right. I agree with him that the so called “Dark ages” is a myth (although i maintain it is a general misconception). Other times he gets it so completely horribly wrong, like maintaining that LoR is an “atheist forum”, and thats one of his more “milder” claims!

I happen to have two serious problems with his “quotation”!

Continue reading A Demon in the rough!

The Good and The Hatred

Just recently I discovered various videos of Dawkins, Hitchens and Dennett on YouTube (surrounding the AAI). They echoed opinions that are similar to mine and are quite harsh in their views on religion. I rediscovered this stance for me just recently again after a long time on hiatus. Now my experience is this: arguments on the ‘crimes’ of religions and their negative views are often met with justifications and relativizations; It is suggested that a position as mine is driven by hatred and intolerance.

There is the old question: How much tolerance for the enemies of tolerance?

Also recently, I found a documentary on the German church-critic Karlheinz Deschner (unfortunately not in English yet). It was titled: “the Hatefilled Eyes of Karlheinz Deschner’. The documentary is some kind of meta-discussion on his body of work which is, alas, not yet available in english, either. He basically wrote for 30 years, alone, on the “Criminal History of Christianity’ in 10 Volumes (!), currently writing the tenth and last one. Hopefull the whole is translated when he is done.

The title “the Hatefilled ‘¦’ is a quote of one of the Christian interviewees, who also appears in regular public TV sometimes. It reflects how some of the other Christian participants think. They are quite obsessed in trying to find a reason for Deschners engagement, trying to pull Ad Hominem Arguments against him. Deschner on the other hand is a rather gentle (very) old man, speaking softly and supports his work with tons of supportive evidence. He will probably not witness how his work is received and it may appear to him that it happens what the other side wants: that his book just collects dust (one of the christian interviewee says so).

Continue reading The Good and The Hatred

Critique Of Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

On the Internet, I have encountered a prominent Philosopher of Religion called Alvin Plantinga who was once described by Time Magazine as a America’s leading orthodoxist Protestant Philosopher of God. He has made many anti-naturalistic arguments and theistic arguments in the past, has engaged in Public Discourse with atheists, rather like William Lane Craig. And also, William Lane Craig seems to be a fan of Plantinga’s misguided “Reformed Epistemology”. But that’s another story altogether. In our particular case, I intend to refute the various fallacious absurdities of Alvin Plantinga’s “Evolutionary Argument Against [Metaphysical] Naturalism”. Or rather more specifically, I will be critiquing all six parts together of a six-part series of lectures on YouTube. It is a talk by Plantinga entitled “An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism”. —see here. I may not be able to address every point as meticulously as I would like to, but I will give it a fair shot. Of course, it is doubtful that he has not simply ignored these criticisms if they have already been made in the past. Oh well… also, for expediency, here is an overview of Plantinga from Wikipedia. You will notice that like William Lane Craig, he is a Christian apologist, and has authored such books as God and Other Minds, and has even written a book entirely dedicated to the argument he presents in this 60 minute lecture. 🙂

Continue reading Critique Of Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

The Soviet Story, A critique (the first 20 mins).

I’ve been eyeing up to do something about this film for a little while, and whilst i enjoy mocking those derive all their ideas about the Soviet Union from the likes of Beck and said film. I’ve decided to calm down enough now, to do a proper critique of this movie, which for the time being can be located here.

Continue reading The Soviet Story, A critique (the first 20 mins).

The Fabric of the Cosmos

The Fabric of The Cosmos – Brian Greene

This book is a must read for anyone who is slightly apprehensive about reading books on complex physics due to it’s mathematical nature. Greene steers clear of any complex jargon, and explains ideas clearly an concisely, though you might find his use of characters from the Simpsons, and the X-files to explain relativity and quantum physics etc. somewhat patronizing (I certainly cringed a little bit at first, but I got used to it).

For example, he employs Lisa and Bart Simpson to explain Einstein’s theory of special relativity. He asks us to imagine Lisa shooting a laser off into the distance, and Bart chasing it on his high powered skateboard. The skateboard can travel 500 million miles per hour, whilst the laser travels at 670 million miles an hour. From Lisa’s stand point she would say that the beam of light was speeding away from Bart at 170 million miles an hour, however when Bart returns he states that the speed of the light was racing away from him at 670 million miles per hour. “If Lisa had been able to see Bart’s watch as he sped along at 500 million miles per hour, she would have seen that it was ticking about two-thirds as fast as her own,’ he writes. The conclusion is stunning: the faster you move through space, the slower you move through time – an amazing truth, but I think it could have been explained without having to invoke Bart and Lisa Simpson!

Greene takes you through classical Newtonian physics, to the strange and counter intuitive realms of relativity and quantum physics (subjects I’d previously found daunting, but was surprised to find that I could actually grasp the basics of it and even explain it to people after reading), before asking questions about the nature of time at the level of both the Einsteinian and the quantum, moving on the origin of the universe, string theory and M-theory, and finally the prospects of teleportation and time travel.

Though the chapters themselves are quite long, each chapter is divided up into several parts under subheadings, so it’s an easy book to pick up and put down again, without feeling too lost. There’s plenty of illustrations, to aid your understanding of some of the concepts that he explains (this is particularly helpful when it comes to the quantum physics).

All in all, I would highly recommend this book to someone who, like me who initially feels challenged by physics and cosmology. It’s a really clear and easy to understand book, and you will find yourself being thrilled by many of the strange and wonderful concepts that it takes you through. If you’re already well versed in physics and cosmology, you will probably find the explanations and analogies in this book too patronizing and laboured, but for someone who feels daunted by the subjects covered, it is a perfect book to give you a basic grasp of the laws that govern the universe we live in. The Fabric of The Cosmos is an inspiring and enlightening read.

Rating: 9/10

Review by: Laurens

Mistakes Were Made

“But not by me” reads the subtitle to this staple non-pology. Mistakes Were Made by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson is a fascinating look into the psychology of being wrong. Examples range from psychiatrists, scientists, politicians, TV hosts, all the way to regular people on the street. The focus of this book is not that people are wrong, but that they refuse to admit they are wrong even to themselves and thus confound the error. As I read this book there was a disconcerting transition from recognising the mistakes other people make to recognising those same mistakes in myself. It turns out that everybody errs and nobody admits to it.

The major driver behind our inability to admit mistakes is the need to reduce cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable feeling of simultaneously holding two contradictory beliefs. In this case the belief that ‘I am a good person’ conflicts with the belief ‘I made a mistake’ and rationalisation kicks in to try and eliminate one of these two beliefs. The easiest one to avoid is ‘I made a mistake’ and that is often the one to go. The authors talk about the numerous ways in which we all try and reduce dissonance. We blame other people, we come up with justifications for our actions, and we ignore evidence that shows we are wrong. Interestingly, we also rewrite our very memories of events to make them seem more favourable to our point of view. This chapter really made me question how accurate anyone (including myself) could be when trying to recall past events.

The most illuminating example(s) in Mistakes Were Made were those that dealt with recovered memories. Recovering memories used to be a legitimate psychiatric practice and helped thousands of people ‘remember’ child abuse, sexual assaults, satanic rituals, and even alien abductions. You’d think by the time aliens came up, the accuracy of the technique might be called into question but the authors do a great job of explaining how accepting small steps can lead to ending at ludicrous (even criminal) outcomes that would not have been accepted in the beginning. The allegations of parental sexual abuse had devastating impacts of real families and some of those involved still can’t admit they were wrong.

Mistakes Were Made contains numerous lessons that anyone could apply to their own lives. I learned a lot from this book and it changed the way I think about how other think and act. The central message from this book is that we all would be better off admitting to each other (and ourselves) when we are wrong.

Overall: 9/10 fantastic read.


In a futuristic American city, Firemen no longer put out blazes – they start them – and the prime target for their arson are the great works of literary history. In the society of Fahrenheit 451 people fill their days by driving recklessly, watching wall-to-wall television, and listening to music through their portable iShell’¦er’¦Seashell radio sets.  The pervasive nature of vacuous entertainment is such that the citizens of this dystopian city have become wholly apathetic to the literal holocaust of the great authors carried out by Firemen. Book-burning is a repellent act and ought to be opposed by every civilised person. Not only is it a public display of censorship, something we all find offensive, but it also represents the destruction of ideas – an attempt to erase important concepts from public knowledge. No one who claims the inheritance of the enlightenment could support such an act.

Continue reading 451°C

You can’t be good without sci-fi

Science fiction provides the perfect backdrop for exploration on the borders of morality because it creates alternate realities which are limited only by the depth of our imagination. Promising technologies can be created, controlled, and finally be seen to unexpectedly turn on their former masters. New planets can be discovered and explored for ancient civilisations or exploited for basic resources. Alien species can threaten our planet with annihilation or they can teach us what it means to be human. In the world of science fiction all these possibilities can occur; new worlds, galaxies, and alien species can be created and destroyed over and over in myriad combinations – then it can all be written again. The remoteness of these new galaxies and the unfamiliar forms of alien species allows for an ethical discussion of current events in a way that does not threaten the personal identity of those directly involved. Science fiction allows a lot of nonsense to be bypassed and lets the viewer to look directly into the heart of important subjects1.

Continue reading You can’t be good without sci-fi