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CURIOSITY: The desire to enlarge oneself is the desire to embrace
more and more possibilities, to be constantly learning,
to give oneself entirely over to curiosity.

   

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alan watts — a pound of water

Man wants his life to make sense, and he has found it hard to believe that it does so unless there is more than what he sees — unless there is an eternal order and an eternal life behind the uncertain and momentary experience of life-and-death.

I may not, perhaps, be forgiven for introducing sober matters with a frivolous notion, but the problem of making sense out of the seeming chaos of experience reminds me of my childish desire to send someone a parcel of water in the mail. The recipient unties the string, releasing the deluge in his lap. But the game would never work, since it is irritatingly impossible to wrap and tie a pound of water in a paper package. There are kinds of paper which won’t disintegrate when wet, but the trouble is to get the water itself into any manageable shape and to tie the string without bursting the bundle.

The more one studies the attempted solutions to problems in politics and economics, in art, in philosophy and religion, the more one has the impression of extremely gifted people wearing out their ingenuity at the impossible and futile task of trying to tie the water of life into neat and permanent packages.

We know much about history, about all the packages which have become tied and duly come apart. We know much detail about the problems of daily life, that they resist easy simplification. The feeling is that we live in a time of unusual insecurity. In the past hundred years or so long-established traditions have broken down. As the years go by there seem to be fewer and fewer rocks to which we can hold, fewer things which we can regard as absolutely right and true and fixed for all time. To some this is a welcome release from the restraints of moral, social and spiritual dogma. To others it is a dangerous and terrifying breach with reason and sanity, tending to plunge human life into hopeless chaos.

— from the "The Wisdom of Insecurity," May 1951. More>

mr. wilson — from “The Limey”

"How you doin' then? All right, are you? Now look, squire, you're the guv'nor here, I can see that. I'm in your manor now. So there's no need to get your knickers in a twist. Whatever this bollocks is that's going down between you and that slag Valentine, it's got nothing to do with me. I couldn't care less. Alright, mate? Let me explain. When I was in prison — second time — uh, no, telling a lie, third stretch, yeah, third, third — there was this screw what really had it in for me, and that geezer was top of my list. Two years after I got sprung, I sees him in Arnold Park. He's sittin' on a bench feedin' bloody pigeons. There was no one about, I could've gone up behind him and snapped his fuckin' neck, WALLOP! But I left it. I could've knobbled him, but I didn't. 'Cause what I thought I wanted wasn't what I wanted. What I thought I was thinkin' about was something else. I didn't give a toss. It didn't matter, see? This berk on the bench wasn't worth my time. It meant sod-all in the end, 'cause you gotta make a choice: when to do something, and when to let it go. When it matters, and when it don't. Bide your time. That's what prison teaches you, if nothing else. Bide your time, and everything becomes clear, and you can act accordingly.”

ludwig wittgenstein — we’re taught judgments

"I know" seems to describe a state of affairs, which guarantees what is known, guarantees it as a fact. • "I know" is usually understood to mean, "I can't be wrong," that I have "the proper grounds for my statement." • But from the utterance, "I know," it does not follow that he knows it. • It needs to be shown that no mistake is possible. • One can say, "He believes it, but it isn't so," but not, "He knows it, but it isn't so." Does this stem from the difference between the mental states of belief and knowledge? • What is the difference between a mistake and a mental disturbance?

The truth of certain empirical propositions belongs to our frame of reference. • Does one have the right ground for his convictions? • I did not get my picture of the world by satisfying myself of its correctness; nor do I have it because I am satisfied of its correctness. No: it is inherited background against which I distinguish between true and false. • The propositions describing this world-picture might be part of a kind of mythology. And their role is like that of the rules of a game.

My convictions form a system, a structure. • Even my doubts form a system. • I have not arrived at my conviction by following a particular line of thought. • All testing, all confirmation and disconfirmation of a hypothesis takes place already within a system.

We do not learn the practice of making empirical judgments by learning rules: we are taught judgments and their connection with other judgments. A totality of judgments is made plausible to us. • It is not single axioms that strike me as obvious; it is a system in which consequences and premises give one another mutual support.

The child learns to believe a host of things. It learns to act accordingly to these beliefs. Bit by bit there forms a system of what is believed, and in that system some things stand unshakably fast and some are more or less liable to shift. What stands fast does so, not because it is intrinsically obvious or convincing, it is rather held fast by what lies around it. • What we believe depends on what we learn. • The child learns by believing the adult; doubt comes after belief. • The difficulty is to realize the groundlessness of our believing.


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QUOTES

UNCERTAINTY: Living with no supernatural justifications,
no complete explanations, no promise of permanent
stability, with guides of merely probable validity.