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  • Philosophy

    Mr. Moorcock,

    I'll start off by getting any of hero-worship i may have off my chest and say that i love your work. But besides the work itself i am fascinated by the ideas behind it.

    I just started at a new school, so i decided to check out their library (actually sitting there right now). And it has me drooling, even though they only have a couple of your books. Their Philosophy and Religion sections are quite large (at least by my standards).

    Now, the only problem is, i'm having trouble deciding where to begin. I've mainly read Eastern Philosophy, however, this semester i'm taking a course on Western Philosophy. Unfortunately it's a pre-requisite for something or other, so not all the other students are in there to actually learn philosophy, however i quite like the instructor, so i'm fairly happy with it. Now, i picked up "Thus spoke Zarathustra" by Nietzsche, which i hope will prove interesting. However, i would very much like more suggestions if you would be so kind as to provide them. As I said, i love your works and the ideas behind them, so i have a great respect for the ideas, and would like to know what influenced you.

    I remember reading that you were heavily influenced by French Existentialism, however i don't know where to begin with that.

    If you don't have much to say that's fine, i know i came in here raving mad... but, I've questioned my sanity for years so it all works out.

    As an aside to everyone else that posts here, I'd definately like to hear your opinions as well, since i'm more of a "lurker" at forums than anything else (i usually don't post unless i have something to say, like umm, now) i've read a good deal of your posts and have respect your opinions as well. More or less, i'm looking for somewhere to begin, this has always been an interest of mine, but not something i've explored as in depth as i want to, so i'm looking to correct that.

    And, yes, this post confused the heck out of me as well

  • #2
    Even, if i am not MM, i would risk an idea :

    To begin with existentialism, i would read Sartre : Existentialism is an humanism ......

    May be the easiest ........


    • #3
      I'm not MM either, but I am a philosopher.

      I agree with with Morgan, although the little book he is talking about is actually translated into English under the title Existentialism and Humanism. It gives a fair overview of Sartre's Existentialism without getting bogged down in too much detail. You might also look at Sartre's novel, Nausea, which is a very well written and shows existentialism in action. Sartre's 'Big Book' on Existentialism is Being and Nothingness, but it is quite heavy going and it is helpful (although not essential) to have a working knowledge of Descartes, Hegel, and Heidegger if you really want to get to grips with it.
      The other major French Existentialist is Albert Camus. His novel The Stranger (or The Outsider in some translations) is both accessible and highly influential.

      Zarathustra is a very tricky book. Nietszche employs a lot of irony therein and so is not necessarily saying what he appears to be. I'm not saying don't tackle it, just be wary about taking everything at face value. On the Genealogy of Morals (or On the Genealogy of Morality) is probably his most straightforward mature work, but it is not as enjoyable to read.

      Outside of that, I would say that if you are just getting into western philosophy, the best things to start with are Plato (Especially The Republic and The Symposium) and Descartes (Meditations on First Philosophy) if you can wrap your head round them you will have a good basis for understanding some of the major concerns of philosophy and how philosophical arguments work.
      Last edited by johneffay; 09-07-2006, 02:11 PM.


      • #4
        You may want to check out "Sophies World" by Jostein Gaarder which gives a neat little summary of 3000 years of philosphical discussion in a single novel....


        Without wishing to offend my friends above, I must quote Kropotkin who in his "Appeal to the Young" (viewable at ) says:

        "....(I)n what respect does the philosopher, who pursues science in order that he may pass life pleasantly to himself, differ from that drunkard there, who only seeks the immediate gratification that gin affords him? The philosopher has, past all question, chosen his enjoyment more wisely, since it affords him a pleasure far deeper and more lasting than that of the toper. But that is all! Both one and the other have the same selfish end in view, personal gratification....

        ... it is above all important to bring about a radical change in this state of affairs which today condemns the philosopher to be crammed with scientific truths, and almost the whole of the rest of human beings to remain what they were five, ten centuries ago - that is to say, in the state of slaves and machines, incapable of mastering established truths. And the day when you are imbued with wide, deep, humane, and profoundly scientific truth, that day you will lose your taste for pure science. You will set to work to find out the means to effect this transformation, and if you bring to your investigations the impartiality which has guided you in your scientific researches you will of necessity adopt the cause of Socialism; you .make an end of sophisms and you will come amongst us. Weary of working to procure pleasures for this small group, which already has a large share of them, you will place your information and devotion at the service of the oppressed.

        And be sure that, the feeling of duty accomplished and of a real accord established between your sentiments and your actions, you will then find powers in yourself of whose existence you never even dreamed. When, too, one day - it is not far distant in any case, saving the presence of our professors - when one day, I say, the change for which you are working shall have been brought about, then, deriving new forces from collective scientific work, and from the powerful help of armies of laborers who will come to place their energies at its service, science will take a new bound forward, in comparison with which the slow progress of today will appear the simple exercises of tyros."

        Perhaps slightly out of context as he uses the 19th century manner of scientists as philosophers - but the point is still the same, being that while it is good to think, thought without action is mere selfish enjoyment...
        Does it follow that I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the boot-maker.


        • #5
          Thanks for the suggestions guys. I stopped by the library again before i left and picked up several more books.

          I now have several weeks of reading ahead of me

          At the moment I decided to start reading "Existentialism and Human Emotions" by Sartre, I'm not sure if it's the same book as you suggested but under a different title (I'm thinking it probably isn't), however, they didn't have the one you suggested (although they had several other books by Sartre). So i decided to go with this one on the off chance that it was what you suggested, and i figure that if it isn't, no harm can come of reading it since it's by the writer that you suggested, I'll just have to go to a bookstore and see about the one you mentioned.

          So far I am enjoying it very much, about a quarter of the way through it (it's short, being a little under one hundred pages.) However, I've noticed over the years that short books are often harder than thick ones. I'll admit that I've had to re-read some passages a time or two to make sure that I'm understanding it right (no reason to read it if I don't understand the ideas behind it). But, as I said, I'm enjoying it very much.
          Last edited by Numazel; 09-07-2006, 07:37 PM.


          • #6
            I'm agreed with your suggestions my friends, and I'd like suggest the reading of Bergson...I like Spinoza and Bruno too, but they may be to much difficult for starting

            - Dalmatius -

            "I'm forbidden to reign, but I'll never yield before the facts: I am the Cat"


            • #7
              Don' t forget Marx ......

              some of his philosophical opus are short/easy reading.

              and people as Marcuse.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Morgan Kane
                Don' t forget Marx ......

                some of his philosophical opus are short/easy reading.
                Marx is a greatly underappreciated philosopher imo and more people would do well to pay attention to him:

                • A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.
                • Age is not a particularly interesting subject. Anyone can get old. All you have to do is live long enough.
                • Either this man is dead or my watch has stopped.
                • From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.
                • Go, and never darken my towels again.
                • I could dance with you until the cows come home. On second thought I'd rather dance with the cows until you come home.
                • I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.
                • I never forget a face, but in your case I'll be glad to make an exception.
                • I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it.
                • It isn't necessary to have relatives in Kansas City in order to be unhappy.
                • Military intelligence is a contradiction in terms.
                • Military justice is to justice what military music is to music.
                • Money frees you from doing things you dislike. Since I dislike doing nearly everything, money is handy.
                • My mother loved children -- she would have given anything if I had been one.
                • Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
                • She got her looks from her father. He's a plastic surgeon.
                • Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others.
                • Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
                • Women should be obscene and not heard.
                • I don't have a photograph, but you can have my footprints. They're upstairs in my socks.

                The Glorious Leader.
                Last edited by David Mosley; 09-08-2006, 01:06 AM.
                _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Groakes
                  Without wishing to offend my friends above, I must quote Kropotkin who in his "Appeal to the Young" (viewable at ) says:

                  When we look at the concrete affects of of Kropotkin on the global political landscape compared to 'mere thinkers' such as Plato, Rousseau, and Mill (to name three disparate philosophers), we can see that his quote is just so much b*llsh*t


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Hieronymus
                    and I'd like suggest the reading of Bergson...I like Spinoza and Bruno too, but they may be to much difficult for starting
                    Particularly Bruno who is incredibly difficult.

                    Do you read Deleuze, Hieronymus? You seem to be pretty keen on his some of his key influences.


                    • #11
                      Bruno is really difficult for us as italians...but I think he was a genius...
                      I don't know Deleuze John, now I'll start to know more about him.
                      Other good philosophers in my opinion, are Giovambattista Vico ( he's simpler than Bruno ) and I love also Marsilio Ficino of Neoplatonic School( very difficult indeed ).
                      Thanks for your suggestion John

                      - Dalmatius -

                      "I'm forbidden to reign, but I'll never yield before the facts: I am the Cat"


                      • #12
                        Ok, I finished reading the first part of the book (Sartre), it was the majority of the book, and it was also the easiest to wrap my mind around (I'm having a bit of trouble with the others, but I'll work it out... I think it's more the way he's saying it than what he's saying that i'm finding confusing). But anyways, I thought I'd bounce my ideas of what he's saying off you guys, hoping to make sure that I'm understanding it as well as I think I am.

                        1. When Sartre is saying that Existence precedes Essence, what he's saying is that I have no preset nature (indeed he points out many times his idea of the Human Condition rather than Human Nature). This is saying that the nature of my existence (who I am), is my choice, and I am responsible for who I become.

                        2. The other big point I saw is that it seems that life, in itself, has no meaning except that which we create for it.

                        3. Passion is not an excuse for our behaviour, whether in a fit of passion or not we are responsible for what we do.

                        4. We are responsible for our actions, and we should consider them in terms of "What if the whole world were to do this, would it make a good world?" (I don't think i'm explaining this one adequately, but for some reason i'm not thinking of a better way to do so. )

                        That was what i thought the general gist of what he was saying was. And I thought I'd see if that was, in general, what is thought about it, see if I'm missing something, or if I'm misinterpreting something.


                        • #13
                          Numazel, that's the basic gist of Sartre's Existentialism. There are two other really key points:

                          1. Satre's claim that existence precedes essence is predicated upon his atheism. It is because humans are not pre-conceived in the mind of a creator that he can say that there is no general template from which we are all modelled and no preset way in which we should lead our lives in order to be moral. This is important because there are some existentialists (e.g. Kierkergaard) who are religious.

                          2. Humans are in a uniquely instrumental relationship to the world, which is why we are able to create our essence as we go along. This is Being-for-itself (pour soi) which is a form of self-consciousness allowing us knowledge of our radical freedom to create ourselves as we see fit. Everything which is not human exists as Being-in-itself (en soi) and has no self-consciousness whatsoever.


                          • #14
                            existence precedes essence
                            Another meaning is that we are our acts, not our intentions ......

                            In a short story, Sartre writes the story of a spanish republican arrested by franquists. They tell him that he is going to die if he does not give the place a chief of the guerilla is hidden. Accepting to die, he gives what he believes an ancient place. n fact he is freed in the morning because the chief had moved back !

                            He is a traitor.

                            Military justice is to justice what military music is to music.
                            is from Clemenceau, french politician at the begining of the century, inrelation to the Dreyfus condamnation.


                            • #15
                              Hrm, thank you both for your prompt responses (and I apologize for the slowness of mine). It's nice to know that I wasn't too far off from what he was saying.

                              It's interesting stuff, not sure that I agree with it all, but it's interesting none the less. I'll Have to look into Sartre some more.