Wow, how long has it been since I posted one of these? (No, wait, don’t answer that.) Anyway, here’s some Oscar Wilde:
I sometimes think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated his ability.
How did it get to be Wednesday already? Where did this week go? And last week? Ur, never mind. NaNo messes with my head, even in Camp form. Right, so, anyway, for Words Crush Wednesday this week, I’m going to give one quote from Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson, AKA the Bloggess. I told myself I wasn’t going to post any quotes at all, ’cause then I’d wanna quote all of it, and that wouldn’t be very fair to her if I posted her whole book piecemeal. 😛 But I had to quote this part here:
People with anxiety disorders are often labeled as “shy” or “quiet” or “that strange girl who probably buries bodies in her basement.” I’ve never actually heard anyone refer to me as the latter, but I always assume that’s what people are thinking, because that sort of paranoia is a common side effect of anxiety disorder. Personally, I always labeled myself as “socially awkward” and reassured myself that there are lots of perfectly normal people who don’t like to talk in public. And that’s true. Unfortunately it’s also true that my fear pushes slightly past the land of “perfectly normal” and lands well into the desert of “paralyzing pathological handicap.”
I can’t express how rare it is to read something in a book that so perfectly feels like “that’s me!” Except that no one would ever call me “that strange girl” who anything; they definitely call me “that creepy woman” who…whatever they think I do. (I don’t wanna know. They probably assume I’m borderline criminal, or at least completely deranged. Probably both, actually.) Apart from anxiety disorder — and, admittedly, mine’s not as powerful as hers — I don’t actually have too much in common with her, overall.
In any case, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is definitely one of the funniest books I’ve read in a very long time. (Probably shouldn’t have started reading it in a doctor’s office waiting room…)
Been a while since I did a Words Crush Wednesday, huh? Well, I hope I remembered the title correctly on the book I’m quoting here! It’s not a book I own, you see, but one I came across as I was cataloging the museum’s library on Sunday. I seem to recall the title being The Reason Why, but it might have been the plural “Reasons” or…well, this is the general idea, anyway. It was a book of “scientific facts” explaining all sorts of things like why a bubble is round, where condensation comes from, et cetera. The stuff a five year old asks.
Anyway, this one was so funny I had to take a photo of it so I could quote it here.
977. Why do tears form in the eyes?
Because, under the emotions of the mind, the circulation of blood in brain, and in its nearest branches, becomes considerably quickened. The eyes receive a larger amount of blood, and the secretion of the lachrymal glands being increased, the fluid overflows, and tears are formed. The use of tears is probably to keep the eyes cool during the excitement of the brain. They are formed also during laughing, but less frequently. [Emphasis in original.]
Yup, this allegedly scientific document just claimed that you cry to keep your eyes cool ’cause your brain is overheating. Because that’s such a scientific explanation.
(Actually, while I understand that the main purpose of the tear glands is to keep the eyes moist and to wash away dust and other particulate matter that accrues on the surface of the eyeball, I have to admit to some curiosity about why emotional distress causes tears in most people. Primarily because this put the idea in my head; I’d never really stopped to think about it before.)
No, I didn’t make a mistake in the title. Erasmus Darwin was Charles Darwin’s grandfather, and he wrote a book with the wonderful title Zoönomia at the end of the 18th century, which was — like his grandson’s most famous work — about evolution. This quote — which I only encountered because it was quoted in The Darwinian Revolution by Michael Ruse (last of these, I promise!) — isn’t from that work, however, but from a slightly later one called The Temple of Nature.
Organic Life beneath the shoreless waves
Was born and nurs’d in the Ocean’s pearly caves;
First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,
Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;
These, as successive generations bloom,
New powers acquire, and larger limbs assume;
Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,
And breathing realms of fin, and feet, and wing.
Thus the tall Oak, the giant of the wood,
Which bears Britannia’s thunders on the flood;
The Whale, unmeasured monster of the main,
The lordly Lion, monarch of the plain,
The Eagle soaring in the realms of air,
Whose eye undazzled drinks the solar glare,
Imperious man, who rules the bestial crowd,
Of language, reason, and reflection proud,
With brow erect who scorns this earthy sod,
And styles himself the image of his God;
Arose from rudiments of form and sense,
An embryon point, or microscopic ens!
Oh, yes, Ruse did point out that Erasmus “liked to express his thinking in verse”…which makes me wonder if Zoönomia was also in verse. (I don’t know if I could handle a whole book of that, though…)
So for Words Crush Wednesday this week I have two quotes for you, one from Plato and one from Michael Ruse’s The Darwinian Revolution, in which he’s paraphrasing Robert Chambers’ Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, a popular but not very scientific pre-Darwinian book on evolution, which both helped and hindered the true science of evolution. (It’s complicated…)
Because I like to go chronologically, we’ll start with Plato’s Republic, translated by G.M.A. Grube and rendered all but unreadable by C.D.C. Reeve. (Seriously, the latter thought it was a good idea to remove the quotation marks and most of the “I said”s and “he said”s from this dialog. So the result is that most of the time you cannot tell who is speaking! Because sometimes a change in paragraph means a change in speakers, and sometimes it doesn’t. Worst. Edition. Ever.)
[Prior to this quote, they’ve been discussing oligarchies, and how under an oligarchy it’s permissible for a rich person to sell all his possessions and live on in the city without belonging to any of the useful parts of the city.]
[Socrates] Should we say, then, that as a drone exists in a cell and is an affliction to the hive, so this person is a drone in the house and an affliction to the city?
[Adeimantus] That’s certainly right, Socrates.
[Socrates] Hasn’t the god made all the winged drones stingless, Adeimantus, as well as some wingless ones, while other wingless ones have dangerous stings? And don’t the stingless ones continue as beggars into old age, while those with stings become what we call evildoers?
[Adeimantus] That’s absolutely true.
Yes, you read that right: Plato thought there were old beggar bees, and criminal bees. (That’s nothing, though. At the time, they also thought bees spontaneously generated inside corpses, so if the hives were getting underpopulated, they’d kill a cow and leave its body to rot near the hives. Without ever picking up on the fact that that didn’t help.) Later in the same discussion, Socrates refers to the “dronish ways” of the spendthrifts in the oligarchies. That I was very pleased to read, because it meant that I finally understood the reason the Drones Club is called that! I had always thought it was the weirdest thing to call a club for rich, idle layabouts…but Wodehouse had obviously read Plato! (Well, of course he had!)
Oh, and somewhere else in one of the two Plato dialogs we read this semester (I think it was the Republic again, but I’m not positive) it referred to ants and bees as having kings. Yet another ancient misconception about bees…
But now we’re going to move on to a 19th century odd belief about bees!
Chambers then backed up his suggestions [that the length of the gestation period was an indicator of the quality of the being produced] with two important illustrations. The queen bee has a much shorter gestation period than the worker, and we all know how superior the worker is to the queen, since the worker is so industrious and the queen is distracted at every turn by sexual passion and jealousy. Chambers may have been an atypical Victorian, but he was not that atypical.
Okay, I have a task for anyone out there with connections to the animation industry:
Please make a very stupid (intentionally so, of course) cartoon involving old beggar bees, criminal bees, and a sexually jealous queen bee.
Okay, my Words Crush Wednesday offerings are about to get erratic. I’m still going to be quoting from the books I read over the past semester, but now they’re going to be all out of order, depending on when I find the books I marked (in the stacks and stacks of books around here) and get around to typing in the quotes. (Should’ve been doing this as I went…)
And first I have to go with one of the last few books of the semester, The Darwinian Revolution by Michael Ruse, because it’s the only one that was a rental book, and I have to return it by, well, actually last Saturday, but I’m pre-writing this last Tuesday, so…
The subject of this quote is “natural religion or theology — the theology that involves man’s knowledge of God through reason and the senses.” In other word, argument from design. The two major figures about to be mentioned are William Whewell and William Buckland, both rather conservative scientists from the earlier portion of the 19th century. The majority of the text below is Ruse’s, of course, but there is a pretty good sized quote within it from Whewell, hence the title of my post. (I have removed his citations from the text, for readability. If anyone wants to know what the citations said, let me know. Or check out the book for yourself. It’s a little bit slow going because of ten thousand zillion names (or so it feels like as you’re trying to remember them all) but quite a fascinating story.)
the argument from design gained fresh life with the publication in the 1830s of the “Bridgewater Treatises” — eight works, commissioned in the will of the eighth earl of Bridgewater, aimed at demonstrating “the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God, as manifested in the Creation”.
Probably the most popular of these works was written by Whewell, officially commissioned to cover the subject of God’s magnificence as evinced by astronomy (Buckland wrote on geology). He began by arguing that the world runs according to laws and that the effects of these laws are instances of apparent design. Thus by law our earth has a year lasting exactly twelve months, and by law plants have a year lasting exactly twelve months. This, Whewell pointed out, is a coincidence essential for the well-being of plants. Were plant cycles eleven months and the earth year twelve months, we would soon have flowering in January, which would spell doom. Having set the stage, Whewell drew his conclusion. “Why should the solar year be so long and no longer? or, this being of such length, why should the vegetable cycle be exactly of the same length? Can this be chance?…No chance could produce such a result. And if not by chance, how otherwise could such a coincidence occur, than by an intentional adjustment of these two things to one another?” God (understood as an all-wise designer) must have matched the lengths of the solar year and the vegetable year. More specifically, since a disjunction would not make much difference to the sun but would be fatal to a plant, there must be a God who looks out for the interests of the plants.
Apparently Whewell never once in his entire life witnessed an early or late spring. That or he never looked out his window at plants whose blooming season was cut short by a late snowfall. He should have talked to some gardeners or farmers before basing his argument (which, you will notice, had very little to do with the astronomy he was assigned to) on the growing cycle of plants. I’m sure they would have told him what we all know, that the plants are reacting to the change in temperature, not on an annual cycle of fixed length.
This Words Crush Wednesday quote from The Second Treatise of Government is a bit different from the last one…
it being impossible for a governor, if he really means the good of his people, and the preservation of them and their laws together, not to make them see and feel it, as it is for the father of a family not to let his children see he loves and takes care of them.
Who knew John Locke could be so naive?
I’ve decided to let Words Crush Wednesday skip over Rousseau, as I think I’m going to do a post just talking about his Reveries, instead of quoting the bits I particularly liked. Therefore, we’re moving on to Denis Diderot.
it could only belong to a philosophical age to attempt an encyclopedia.
I wonder what kind of an age he would say a wikipedia belongs to? (Actually, I don’t think I want to know…)
(Technically, this is out of order; there’s another Locke quote I already have prepared to post, but…this one seemed perfectly suited for today, because of something else going up this week. And despite what I said above, I may go back and type in all those Rousseau quotes I liked, ’cause it’s now been so long since I read his Reveries that I don’t remember a lot of the details, given how much else I’ve had to read since then. (When you’re reading a full book of philosophy, political theory or history every single week, everything starts to get jumbled together by the time you hit end-of-semester burn-out…))
EDIT — It would seem this was my 500th post!
Wow, if I’d been aware I was on the verge of such a milestone, I’d have been a little more cautious and written something a bit more, y’know, epic.
I hadn’t thought, going into it, that I’d want to do any Words Crush Wednesday posts from John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, but I was wrong. (There’s actually going to be one next week, too. Or possibly next month. Depends if I decide to do double-post Wednesdays in April, or if I just put these off until May. So it’ll probably actually depend on if I can find any good quotes for what I’ve decided to do for each Wednesday’s topic in the April A-to-Z.)
Uh, anyway, moving on to the quote, it’s the beginning of Chapter VI of the Second Treatise. (And because it was always in English, no translator was required! Yay! Though it was edited to have modern spellings…which is for the best, really. The Hobbes reading hadn’t been so edited, and it was really distracting.)
It may perhaps be censured as an impertinent criticism, in a discourse of this nature, to find fault with words and names that have obtained in the world; and yet possibly it may not be amiss to offer new ones when the old are apt to lead men into mistakes, as this of ‘paternal power’ probably has done, which seems so to place the power of parents over their children wholly in the father, as if the mother had no share in it; whereas, if we consult reason or revelation, we shall find she has an equal title.
I just loved the fact that he acknowledged the full rights of the mother as equal to the father. (Technically speaking, in some ways I think the mother should have more rights, since she’s the one lugging the kids around inside her womb for all that time, but…that’s beside the point. The point is that Locke (1632-1704) was actually giving women some rights, which was not exactly something with a lot of precedent at the time.)
This Words Crush Wednesday is the last from Kant (for now), I promise. Then I’ll move on to later readings.
A man may postpone his own enlightenment, but only for a limited period of time. And to give up enlightenment altogether, either for oneself or one’s descendants, is to violate and to trample upon the sacred rights of man. What a people may not decide for itself may even less be decided for it by a monarch, for his reputation as a ruler consists precisely in the way in which he unites the will of the whole people within his own.
Enlightenment is one of the sacred rights of humanity. I love that.
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