Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Proof of the Truthful


The contributions from medieval Islamic philosophers to the development of Western philosophy are undeniably numerous and profound. Here I'd like to pick out one argument from one philosopher as a noteworthy example: the Proof of the Truthful (برهان الصديقين) by Avicenna (ابن سینا‎). The proof purports to be a rational demonstration for why there must be a "necessary existent", something that must exist, a first cause for all contingent being. The "Truthful" refers to philosophers such as Avicenna himself. In contrast to the Koran that invites the masses to belief through a persuasive rhetoric or even the mullahs who approach the same subject through debate in a dialectic manner, Avicenna is indicating that the philosopher's method will be that of rigorous logical demonstration.

The point of departure for Avicenna's entire line of reasoning is nevertheless grounded in common human intuitions. We look around us with the palpable sense that everything we see is coming in and out of existence. The universe thus seems to cry out to the human mind for a reason for its own being. More than a millennium earlier the Greek philosopher Parmenides had coined the dictum, "nothing comes from nothing" in pursuit of his own metaphysical explanations. And nearly a millennium after Avicenna,  European philosophers such as Leibniz and Schopenhauer would revisit similar questions by means of what they described as the principles of sufficient reason. We ourselves are witness to a multitude of effects around us and can't help but wonder what is the cause of it all. Avicenna provides one of the most cogent arguments ever formulated for necessary being.

An initial presupposition of Avicenna is that there are three modes of being. There are things that are impossible, their vary essence precludes their being. An example might be a square circle which is contradictory by definition. Next there is the most familiar to us, contingent being. You and I could exist but we don't have to exist and in fact we eventually will cease to exist. Likewise, we're not even the cause of our present existence. Finally, he speaks of necessary existence. Something whose essence guarantees existence, is fundamental to its very nature. As we don't tend to question impossibility or contingency so his proof is focused on establishing a logical ground for necessary being.

Yet one may ask, why is the necessary even necessary? Might not contingent being suffice to explain everything? After all our notions of being seem primarily grounded in cause and effect. Yes, our being has a cause which we attribute to our parents, who had parents, perhaps ad infinitum. Similarly, existence might be occurring in cycles as a repeated loop so that the effect leads back to the cause; everything that has happened before will yet take place over and over, forever and ever. Certainly, ancient Eastern and Western religious beliefs and philosophical theories of an eternal universe posit such explanations. Avicenna rightly points out that this would lead to an infinite regress of contingent causes. Nevertheless, that is no objection in and of itself to its possibility. Avicenna must probe further.

If the universe were nothing more than an aggregation of contingent existence then would not the universe itself be contingent? Furthermore, if the universe is contingent on something that is itself contingent, by definition it would have to be included in the universe as defined as the collection of contingent being. Very quickly we find that holding to a universe of pure contingent existence tangles us in logical absurdity. Avicenna's argument could be rejected on the basis of an equivocation: just because the contents of the universe are contingent does not entail that the universe itself is contingent. The whole may be greater than or at least different from the parts. This objection however actually only seeks to prove the argument. At the very least, as the collection of contingent being, the universe must be necessary. If it isn't, than it is contingent on something that is not the universe. Avicenna favours the latter position and continues to make a philosophical articulation for the grounds of the Islamic conception of God as the one and only necessary being, a single unity. Included among this are his own arguments for various qualities that such a God must necessarily possess some perhaps being more convincing than others.

The Beautiful Names

"وَلِلَّهِ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا (All the names of God are beautiful, so call Him by them)" - Surah 7:180

Many of the qualities attributed to God by Avicenna are again encountered in what are known as the "beautiful names" a list of 99 names or superlative attributes traditionally ascribed to God. Although the idea of the names comes directly from the Koran, the list is not strictly definitive; there are different iterations which contain names found both in and outside the Koran. The point of them is generally understood to serve as a means of directing praise to God by reflecting on his qualities. As such the names can found inscribed on Islamic rosary beads or "tisbah" (تَسْبِيح) literally meaning "glorify", the recantation being utilised for meditation and daily reflection.

Topping the list are the names of "most gracious" and "most merciful" found in the basmala (بِسْمِ ٱللَّٰهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ) that introduces all but one of the surahs of the Koran. However, also included are  transcendental aspects of necessary existence as expressed in Classical antiquity. God is "the True" (ٱلْحَقُّ) and "the Good" (ٱلْبَرُّ). Moreover, I find it quite interesting that it is the quality of "the Beautiful" (الْحُسْنَىٰ ) that characterises, permeates, and infuses the entire list. To be clear, the translation of the Arabic "al-Hassan" is no mere reference to superficial prettiness, rather conveys the notion of excellence and harmony that similarly typify Classical conceptions of the beautiful. 

There exists some disagreement and controversy as to whether or not the world of Islam is part of Western civilisation. Admitting that such classifications are based on subjective judgements, I'm going to state that my own position is a definitive yes. The cultural exchange between Islamic intellectual, religious, and architectural traditions with their Jewish, Christian, and Classical counterparts is profound and in my view inextricable. This is especially the case for the Islamic societies of North Africa, the Levant, Baghdad and Persia that have had the deepest and most enduring cultural exchange with what is typically considered Western civilisation.


Contributed by Patrick Webb

Monday, December 21, 2020

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness in Saint Thomas Aquinas


Sandro Botticelli
St Thomas Aquinas 1482

If Saint Augustine deserves the lion's share of credit for fully synthesising Neoplatonic philosophy including its metaphysical conceptions of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness into Christianity, then Saint Thomas Aquinas must be acknowledged as having accomplished a similar feat with the philosophy of Aristotle. Although Aristotle's work on formal logic continued to be studied during the Middles Ages, much of his other writings were entirely lost for many centuries to the Western church. Neither was it propagated or widely known in the Eastern Orthodox church. Interest in Aristotle's philosophy during this early medieval period was instead zealously taken up by Islamic philosophers, beginning with Al-Kindi of Baghdad in the 9th century who translated much of Aristotle's corpus into Arabic. Al-Farabi and Avicenna were subsequent notable Islamic philosophers who wrote commentaries on Aristotle's philosophy and attempted to synthesise the metaphysics of Aristotle as well as that of Plato with Islamic theology. However, it was the 12th century Andalusian Averroës that would catch the attention of Catholic theologians. Averroës had written commentaries on almost all of Aristotle's philosophy which were translated into Latin thereby making them available to the West.

Averroës of  Córdoba
Averroës was of a mind that the philosophy of Aristotle and Islamic theology were ultimately irreconcilable. However, unwilling to reject either he proposed a theory of double truth wherein the truths of philosophy were said to be expressed clearly and logically. When these did not align with the revealed truth of theology than it indicated an allegorical interpretation of revelation was in order. Averroës went further in asserting that it was the philosopher who was in the best position to judge what was in need of interpretation and how it was to be interpreted. This subordination of theology to philosophy, as one might well imagine, did not sit well with the Islamic mullahs of Córdoba who sought and achieved his extradition on the grounds of heresy. 

A century later, with the translated works and commentaries of Averroës on Aristotle in hand, a cadre of theologians based out of the University of Paris were reaching similar conclusions with a similar response from the Church: condemnation for heresy wherein the Church was quite inclined to throw out the baby of Aristotelian philosophy with the bathwater of Averroist interpretation. It is in this controversial milieu that Saint Thomas Aquinas enters the Parisian scene with a far more moderating position. He was convinced that there was incredible value to be extracted from the philosophy of Aristotle, that faith and reason could and in fact must coexist. Yes, apparent contradictions might indicate the occasional allegorical interpretation of scripture is in order; however, it may likewise prompt a reexamination and moderation of philosophical positions. As brilliant as Aristotle was, only God is infallible. 

All Truth is God's Truth

Following Aristotle, Aquinas rejects that human beings enter the world with innate ideas, that is to say clearly defined truths. We have no a priori, prior knowledge of God or anything else for that matter. Everything we come to know (with one notable exception) come a posteriroi, meaning after the fact, from sense experience. Furthermore, what we sense are always particular things. Our world of sense is corporeal, made of bodies. Aquinas in accord with Aristotle recognises a dual nature of these bodies that he calls hylomorphic, "hyle" being the Greek word for "matter" and "morphic" indicating "form". The essence of corporeal things is thus a composite of matter and form that only exist together as a body, a substance. What makes particular things particular? Aquinas' view is that matter is subject to accidents of nature in such a way as to individuate the composite substance, leaving a permanent impression on it which varies slightly from body to body. Our senses only alert us to the particular, the composite body; however, humans have the additional unique capacity of intellect that inclines us toward essences. Our intellect empowers us to see the immaterial formal nature within the particular body, that which makes it the thing that it is. Moreover, we're able to identify upon reflection the same form manifest across multiple bodies. Aristotle and Aquinas call these dispersed forms universals and the intellectual act of reflection that recoginises them abstraction. 

Granting the Aristotelian presupposition that we've no direct knowledge of God, what if anything can our natural reason tell us about Him? Aquinas furnishes a number of proofs for God's existence grounded in the senses, assisted by the intellect. His proofs from motion and cause follow a similar pattern. We know from sense experience that everything that moves or that is an effect has a cause. However, also from experience we know that which initiates the movement or acts as cause must itself have a cause. From this point our intellect contributes, inclining us to think that to avoid an infinite regress of causes there must be a prime mover or first cause, something or someone responsible for the entire series. This could be thought of as first in time but more importantly first in importance, a supreme cause of the entire causal order. This is what Aquinas indicates as a logical proof for God. It tells us that God as a first cause must necessarily exist though admittedly it does little to say what God is. 

Nevertheless, Aquinas asserts that our senses and natural reason can get us yet even a little closer to the knowledge of God. He posited that there are objective properties of all existence such as truth, being, unity. As we can first find them in particulars then abstract them as universals, we reach a position to attribute them to God in a superlative sense. This act of attribution by the intellect he calls an analogy, "according to logic". Thus God is thought of by us as Truth, as Being, as Unity, etc. Of course, this is still not a direct knowledge of God, rather a similitude or extrapolation grounded in sense experience. In that respect it is acknowledged that it remains imprecise and incomplete. Thus, in defending Aristotle, Aquinas pointed out that an incomplete knowledge such as the philosopher held does not equate to falsity, rather the limitation of truth available to natural reason. Supplementing and surpassing this natural limitation is supernatural revelation. Such revealed truth may or may not be demonstrable to the senses. However, it remains available in its entirety to our faculty of natural reason which can subject revealed truth to rational scrutiny to ascertain that there is no logical contradiction, that it is possibly true. In fine, Aquinas sees our access through truth via natural reason, even supplemented as it is by revelation as being limited. Ultimate truth must await for a heavenly existence in the very presence of God.

Although Aquinas places a good deal of emphasis on the role of the intellect, he situates our motivation towards the pursuit of truth in the will, a will that has a measure of freedom. In so doing he utilises a modified version of the four causes of Aristotle. Obviously we exist as bodies and the material aspect of human nature acts a cause, one that holds potential as well as constraint as exemplified by the senses, our gateway to the acquisition of knowledge. Additionally there is a formal nature that makes us human and not something else. Our very form inclines the will to certain interests including the pursuit of well-being and the truth. At the same time there are efficient causes that impel us to take action in certain directions. Some of these come from without, others are an exercise of free will from within, we decide to pursue a course of action. And then there is the final cause, God that draws us towards him as the ultimate source of Truth. So the will although free does not exist in a causal vacuum. We have our own corporeal nature with its constraints and inclinations. Furthermore we are pushed from within and without and drawn from above. Human freedom of the will rests not in the ultimate end that we're already oriented towards, instead in the limited means of striving towards it.

Temporal and Eternal Goodness

For Aquinas God was more than the Form of the Good as per Plato or the source of Being as described by St Augustine. Not that they were incorrect in attributing those things to God; nevertheless, Aquinas saw something more essential to God. As previously considered, we are corporeal beings, hylomorphic in nature. Logically our matter and form are separable but substantially they're always found together. Our essence or being is that of a composite body. Neither aspect, be it our matter or form has any meaning if it does not exist. However, we're highly cognizant of the fact that we don't have to exist, it's not necessary. Bodies come in and go out of existence all of the time. To the contrary, it is patently obvious that we don't give ourselves existence; dependence is tied up in our very essence, our existence is contingent on something outside of ourselves. Aquinas says that such finite existence is contingent on God. He is unique in that His essence is not hylomorphic at all, rather His essence is to exist. God is that which exists independently and necessarily.

According to Aquinas we are always inclined, pushed, and drawn towards happiness, literally good or well-being which we pursue in proximate and ultimate ways. We posit existence as good and we share the desire to exist with other living things. As such we pursue activities of self-preservation in our own human way, notably what we might call the necessities of life: food, clothes, shelter, and medicine. And it's not just our own particular finite existence but also the preservation of the species that impels us towards reproduction, another impulse we seem to share with all living things. Apart from this human beings are rational and highly social. This presupposes that we can posit quite sophisticated goals of well-being. The cardinal or Greek virtues of prudence, temperance, courage, and justice are social in orientation. In recognition of our social nature, that we find greater fulfillment in community than in isolation, these virtues serve as a basis for the proximate well-being that the State can potentially provide. 

Aquinas once again modifies the four causes of Aristotle to demonstrate how the State can serve well-being. The community as such is the material cause of the State. Civil law serves to give the community order and structure acting as formal cause. The ruling authority acts as efficient cause of the State, constantly impelling it toward its final cause: the common good. Therefore, by this reasoning the State is natural to humans as a necessary condition for men to pursue well-being according to their nature as rational, social creatures. Nevertheless, Aquinas insists that the happiness to be found in the State is but a proximate, temporal good. Man has a longing for the ultimate, eternal good as only can be found in God. This is why there arises another community of man organised for the pursuit of true happiness and the highest good: the Church. The Church helps the community of believers to cultivate the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love necessary for reunion with God. 

Friedrich Kaulbach - Coronation of Charlemagne 1861

From where does the authority of the State and Church derive? According to Aquinas it is not arbitrary power rather a legitimate authority based in God. Divine wisdom is equated with Eternal law which, while perfect and necessary, is inaccessible to our direct apprehension. However, by man being made in the image of God, we have His law implanted in our very nature. It is from reflection upon our own inclinations under the rule and measure of reason that Natural law emerges. Furthermore, the State develops a body of Civil law based on the right reason of Natural law and adapted to particular circumstances for the common good. However, for Aquinas man's ultimate end and well-being is not earthly but heavenly and eternal in God. Therefore the Church promulgates the Divine law of revealed truth in scripture. As the State does with Civil law, the Church develops a corpus of Canon law that adapts Divine law to specific circumstances. For the most part Church and State have there own spheres of influence, the eternal and temporal well-being of mankind respectively. However, as man's ultimate end is eternal in God, the State ought to recognise the higher purpose of the Church and support Her care for the salvation of mankind.

The Object of Beauty

The Chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity
Thomas Aquinas College, Santa Paula, CA
courtesy of Duncan G. Stroik Architect, LLC
"The beautiful is the same as the good, and they differ in aspect only. For since good is what all seek, the notion of good is that which calms the desire; while the notion of the beautiful is that which calms the desire, by being seen or known."

It can be said unequivocally that for Aquinas beauty is objective. From the quote above we can glean its intimate relation with the good and its connection to cognition. Although Aquinas references the senses, particularly sight and hearing, they are merely suggested as a medium the transmission of beauty. Our awareness of beauty occurs when it is literally "recognised", repeatedly brought forth as an object in the mind in an act of cognition. So what exactly is it that we are seeing or knowing with the mind's eye?

Initially, Aquinas relates harmony as an attribute of beauty. This includes the cognition of symmetry, quantifiable geometric proportion. However, in the sense used it also refers to qualitative relations such as those between cause and effect. This entails the idea of order, things being appropriate, each allocated in their appropriate place and the aforementioned calm engendered in recognition of that.

There is also a clarity associated with beauty. Again, the object of beauty in the mind must be recognisable to be appreciated. There is a sense in which the beautiful is also radiant, it shines forth, it arrests the attention, it draws one towards it. The analogy of light is associated with God so that when He illumes the mind it is not merely a cold intellectual apprehension, rather a enrapturing beatitude of total awareness.

Finally, there is integrity, that something exists and that it is true. In as much as something has being it can be said to have a measure of beauty. However, what we look for is truth, completeness. In this case not logical truth but ontological truth. In other words, is the object of our contemplation true to type, approaching its perfection in the sense of not lacking anything that it is essential to what it is? To be truly integral and whole involves not just proper being but existing as well, dynamically actualising its end, its purpose.

In our next essay we'll conclude the medieval period with a consideration of Duns Scotus and William of Ockham. This is a major transitory period in philosophy where the teleological, end oriented conception of reality begins to give way as a scientific world view in turn gains ground with significant implications for mankind's conceptions of truth, beauty, and goodness.

Contributed by Patrick Webb

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Saint Anselm's Ontological Argument

St Anselm, Canterbury Cathedral
Before moving on to discuss Thomas Aquinas' conceptions of Truth, Beauty and Goodness, I'd like to take a brief detour to consider one of his medieval predecessors, Saint Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury. Specifically, Anselm's concept and defence of God as a perfect as well as necessary being, framed in what has come to known as the ontological argument, where ontology refers to the study of being or existence. It's a good moment to discuss the prevailing view of reality that philosophy until that time was operating under, the debt that Christian theology owed to especially Platonic philosophy, as well as how some of the underlying presuppositions of Christianity described a very different conception of God than that held by the Greeks. 

The Ontological Argument

I remember the first time I encountered the argument I was completely lost. First of all, it's hardly concise, being spread out over at least a couple of chapters that themselves cannot be easily extricated from a larger work. Furthermore, it just comes across as dense and overly self-reflective. The following excerpt from the Proslogion captures the gist of it:
"And, it so truly exists that it cannot be thought not to be. For, a thing, which cannot be thought not to be (which is greater than what cannot be thought not to be), can be thought to be. So, if that than which a greater cannot be thought can be thought not to be, that very thing than which a greater cannot be thought is not that than which a greater cannot be thought, which cannot be compatible [convenire, i.e. with the thing being such]. Therefore, there truly is something than which a greater cannot be thought, and it cannot be thought not to be."
Before you panic, stick with me. Various scholars have reformulated Anselm's argument into a simple syllogism. This particular example by Thomas Williams (available in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) I find quite helpful: 
1. That than which a greater cannot be thought can be thought.
2. If that than which a greater cannot be thought can be thought, it exists in reality.

3. That than which a greater cannot be thought exists in reality. 

Stated in this manner I understand what the argument contends. However, upon a cursory reading it doesn't sound the least bit convincing. Because I can think of the greatest being...he must really exist. What kind of argument is that? It comes across as psychological scaffolding without a proper foundation attempting to wish God into existence. Well, as it turns it is an argument that implies its reader shares a view of reality informed by a number of unstated presuppositions that you and I likely didn't grow up with. Fortunately, I think it's not too much of a stretch to temporarily adopt that frame of reference.

A Teleological vs Mechanical Model

Sir Isaac Newton
Trinity College Chapel

I would expect that most of us are beneficiaries of a secular education (if not exclusively) that presents a roughly mechanical model of reality. Newtonian science describes a cosmos of bits and bobs, applications of forces that unfurls deterministically like some great big clockwork. To be fair I think science has somewhat moved on from that conception of reality to something more organic and relational; nevertheless, popular culture seems to lag behind. Yet at the time Newton and his contemporaries' ideas were revolutionary. So what was the previous model?

The most common view held amongst the Ancient Greeks was what is called a teleological model of reality, derived from the word 'telos', meaning 'end' or 'purpose'. The material world was conceived as more than just cause and effect, blind forces acting upon matter. Form and pattern were observed and accounted for as having a final cause that they were working towards, one that gave meaning to existence and provided explanation for why things proceeded in the manner that they appear to do so. The observable cosmos was one of order and harmony indicating that there was an intelligence underlying it all. It's not going out on a limb to say this is a rational view, one that accords with much of our experience. For example, we can easily observe that vegetation goes through its cycles of growth, maturity, and reproduction in a manner that satiates its appetites. Likewise animals do the same and additionally manifest a will of their own satisfying desires and avoiding pain. Reflecting on our own lives, we share these characteristics and have our own proximate goals that we seek to pursue. We seem to be willful, purposeful, goal oriented creatures.

The teleological model does not discount mechanical aspects of existence, rather subsumes them as instrumental means to achieve an ultimate end. This is not unlike how humans design various mechanisms with purpose in mind, often coming up with different designs that achieve the same outcome. Even for our own creative activity the means are not as important as the purpose or goal we're hoping to achieve. So what was the telos, the final cause, the ultimate end for the Greeks?

The Essence of God

In a word, God. Plato in particular belaboured to put this into philosophical language. The cosmos was accessible to human reason as it is characterised by order. The inner unity we see in things, that makes them identifiable as things at all, was attributed to a transcendental nature that he called the Forms. They were 'transcendental' because they did not depend on the particular existence of any one thing but are like an intelligence that lies underneath, give rise to the particular form any one thing may take and purpose they may carry out. However, he further observed that there appears to be an overarching order that unifies all the varied particulars of existence into a coherent cosmos that appears to be progressing in a certain orientation. This unity or Form of all Forms he at times calls God, at other times the Good.

This Greek, specifically Platonic view, shares many similarities with the Judaeo-Christian conception of God. God is a unity, the One. God is the Good. God is the intelligence underlying the world and the ultimate end. However, there are differences between the Greek and Christian conception that prove significant. The most noteworthy departure being that, for the Greeks, matter is eternal and independent of God. In its original state it is chaos, uncreated, formless and waste. God in some way or fashion, perhaps through intermediary beings, is ultimately what brings order out of this primordial chaos. In summary, for Plato what God imparts to matter is form and reunion with God, the actualisation of form is the highest, ultimate end.

In the Christian view this is an insufficient conception of God. God does not just impart form to matter, instead he imparts being itself. The essence of God is not just form rather existence itself. Therefore, there is no matter apart from God. The Christian conception of prima materia differs from the Greek conception of chaos. Primordial matter has no independent existence, is nothing more than potential for the mind of God. God brings matter into being by imparting into it His essence, existence itself. In the Christian scheme God is thus the perfection of being, the complete actualisation of all potential. Such being implies certain characteristics: omnipotence (all powerful), omniscience (all knowing), infinite (without limitation), and impassible (cannot be changed or acted upon). 

At this point I think we've established enough of a background to lend some support to the underlying logic of Anslem's argument. If being is the ultimate good, than being in reality must be greater than being in conception in the same manner that actuality is greater than potential. So to have the conception of the 'greatest', ergo most actualised, being in the mind would be meaningless if he didn't exist in actuality. If being is your criteria he wouldn't be the greatest is he didn't actually exist, a logical contradiction. To avoid absurdity, the moment you can conceive of the greatest being he necessarily must exist to be the greatest. 

Convinced yet? Me neither. However, I have to confess it no longer sounds completely ridiculous. Once you understand that Saint Anselm was not making out his claim to be an empirically demonstrable proof for God, instead a reasonable, logically worked out proof based on specific presuppositions pertaining to a certain world view, it's not so difficult to follow. Understanding that for medieval Christian philosophers being itself was identified as good, and perfect being the Good and ultimate end sheds considerable light on their way of thinking and goes a long way in helping us to appreciate their contributions to philosophy.

Contributed by Patrick Webb

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness in Saint Augustine


Sandro Botticelli - Saint Augustine 1480
As discussed in our previous essay, the early Church owed a significant debt to Greek philosophy in framing the theology of Christianity in a manner that could be more easily understood and palatable to the gentile community throughout the Roman empire. However, this was far from a seamless, unproblematic integration. The discrepancies in world views between Christianity and Greek philosophy were profound and primarily metaphysical. For Christianity as with Judaism the cosmos was created by God ex-nihilo, that is to say out of nothing. This was completely at odds with the original Platonic conception which followed Greek myth and religious precedent that matter had always existed as something substantially separate from God. Plato held that the cosmos was created ex-materia, the application of eternal Forms to pre-existing matter to imbue it with pattern and order. Stoic philosophy likewise had an influence on early Christianity; however, their metaphysics also departed significantly, although in a different direction. The Stoics held that God and Nature, the spiritual and physical world were merely two aspects of one reality. The Stoic cosmos was ex-deo, out of the very nature of God and identical with it. 

In time, Neoplatonism shifted slightly closer to Stoicism anticipating a panentheistic position which posited that from an initial outpouring of the divine there resulted the formation of intermediate states of being rising from an informed physical creation toward a World-Soul and Nous, culminating in the ultimate, unchanging One that exists outside of the hierarchy altogether. Further complicating the picture were Gnostic metaphysical conceptions that had penetrated both Judaism and Christianity. Gnostic dualism held that matter was entirely evil, a creation of the kingdom of darkness by the Demiurge and stood opposed in eternal conflict with the Great Father of the kingdom of light. Augustine of Hippo was raised Christian; however, upon adulthood he opted for Manicheism, an heretical Gnostic sect in which he participated for nearly a decade. Later disillusionment and opportunity led him to study Neoplatonism in Milan and ultimately back to Christianity. Augustine thus benefited from the ideal upbringing and education to salvage and reintegrate into Christianity what value he had encountered within the pagan and heretical views prevalent in the 4th century. The incredible work of synthesis undertaken by Saint Augustine would establish truth, beauty, and goodness as a tightly bound trinity that would deeply imprint the subsequent development of Christianity and Western culture.

The Good and Augustinian Metaphysics

Manichaean Bodhisattva Jesus
One of the issues that Augustine found unsatisfactory as an acolyte of Manicheism was its dualistic ontology that held there were two opposing realms of eternal being: a realm of the good, light, and reason contraposed against the realm of evil, darkness, and matter. In this scheme humans were the internally divided progeny of these warring factions, a soul and spark of the light entrapped in the darkness of an inherently evil body. There was no hope of an eventual vindication of good over evil. The best one could do was practise a life of strict asceticism waiting for one's divine spark to be relieved of and thereby saved from its diseased, mortal flesh. 

Augustine found that things improved slightly when he undertook his study of the Neoplatonic metaphysics of Plotinus. There remained two similar realms of eternal being: God and matter. However, matter was not considered inherently evil, just disorganised. By contrast, God was the Form of all Forms, the Good. What emanated from God were the Forms, eternal archetypes that ordered all existence, spiritual and material. To the extent that matter participated in the Forms, to that degree matter was good. Natural evil was nothing more than a deprivation, perversion, or corruption of goodness and formality, thus held no independent existence. Plotinus went on to relate another view of evil on moral grounds. Human beings were described as sitting at the nexus between material existence and the imbuement of form; as such they are able to choose between two orientations along the hierarchy of being. The higher orientation would lead to the pursuit of a life of reason, a cultivation of the active intellect that contemplates the eternal Forms, ultimately seeking reunion with the Good. Conversely, the lower path is to abandon oneself to the passions, a life of materials pursuits, seeking fulfillment of desires, and embodied pleasures. 

Much of this Neoplatonic view was considered worthy of salvage by Augustine upon his conversion to Christianity. However, a number of adjustments would have to be made to arrive at a respectable synthesis. What could be received unreservedly was that God was synonymous with the Good and the source of all goodness. However, unlike the Greek conception, for a Christian matter was not a pre-existent, distinct substance that God had later given form, rather God informed matter in the act of His creation and saw that "it was very good." The Neoplatonists conceived of God as perfect, complete, timeless, and unchanging. Beings such as the Logos, the World-Soul, down to human beings and the material cosmos were all emanations of the divine and they found these intermediary beings necessary in explaining how change was possible. Nevertheless, for Augustine it was unacceptable that Christ as the Logos or the Holy Ghost were different from God, or even similar to God. Augustine's Christianity demanded that they be of the very same essence of God, wholly good, not inferior beings on an hierarchy. 

“How can the past and future be, when the past no longer is, and the future is not yet? As for the present, if it were always present and never moved on to become the past, it would not be time, but eternity.”

For the Neoplatonists, God was changeless and outside the realm of time. Time was seen as limiting and perspectival, the ever changing image of the eternal Forms. Augustine wanted to agree that God was perfect in the Platonic sense yet his approach was slightly adjusted to account for God's appearing as the Creator and active in the material world of particulars. Augustine presents time as something coming into existence with the creation of the cosmos. God's omniscience means that all of our time is present to Him at once similar to a great leap of intuition that we may experience. Augustine relates that how we experience time ourselves gives an intimation of this perspective. For example, our view of the past is nothing more than a memory we experience in the present. Similarly, our conjecture of the future is nothing more than a present anticipation. Human beings thus phenomenally exist in an everlasting present. Augustine extrapolates this describing God as having a static, present image of time on a cosmic, eternal scale, and in a perfect manner. This is arguably not an entirely satisfactory explanation in the face of further scrutiny yet it is an undeniably significantly imaginative leap forward.

Truth, Light and Epistemology

"Where I found truth, there found I my God, who is the truth itself."

The aforementioned differences between Neoplatonic and Christian metaphysics have implications for their respective theories of knowledge. For the Neoplatonists, human intellect was the spiritual aspect of man, a residue of the very emanation of the divine. Therefore access to the truth was innate, straightforwardly an act of remembrance of one's previous existence. The means for distinguishing truth and falsehood was dialectical, a vigorous application of reason to argument. A tempered asceticism was likewise encouraged as the body was materially tied to a location whereas pleasures withdrew one's focus to the immediacy of sensation. Reason was to cultivate and exercise the civic virtues of temperance, prudence, courage, and justice in order to restrain the passions so that the intellectual practise of dialectic might proceed unfettered, the mind freed to travel temporally in recollection and spatially in imagination. The ultimate goal of dialectic was direct access to the transcendent truths of the Forms, reunification with the One, and the elimination of independent being.

Of course, for Augustine the idea that any aspect of human beings was consubstantial with the divine was necessarily rejected. Man was created by God like everything else. The soul may be incorporeal yet it has no pre-history, there is no pre-existence from which it can remember anything. Truth was therefore posited as something to be learned as an act of will rather than remembered as the exercise of intellect. Augustine strongly associated Truth with the manifestation of the Logos, God as the source of all Form. Augustine modifies the Neoplatonist concept of the emanating logoi spermatikoi to describe the Logos' rationes seminales, 'seeds of reason' that were implanted in the creation, subsequently ordering its development, each according to its kind. Likewise, Plato's eternal Forms that seemed to posses their own being independent of God were reenvisioned as the rationes aeternae, eternal ideas in the mind of the Logos. While God's truths were on the one hand immanent, directly observable in nature through the action of the rationes seminales, how could mortal man catch sight of the rationes aeternae, eternal ideas in the mind of God?

The answer Augustine provides is direct illumination of the human mind by the Logos. Jesus had indeed told his followers that he was "the light of the world." This light however is not truth in and of itself, rather it enables the truth to be seen. Furthermore, there is exertion required on the part of individual, the mind's eye must look, there must be an active effort to know. Although Augustine acknowledges that some truth has been revealed through revelation, the general illumination of the Logos has always been available to all of mankind. This conveniently accounted for why Plato and many of the pagan philosophers had uncovered so many truths. These men had put forth strenuous efforts to exercise their power of reason and the Logos had in turn illumined their vision. Hence, the existence of logical truths such as the law of non-contradiction (a thing cannot be and not be at the same time and in the same respect) as well as the law of self-existence that Augustine himself expressed thus: "Si fallor, sum" (If I am mistaken, I am.) Moreover, this justified the study of such pagan philosophies for in the final analysis "all truth is God's truth" wheresoever it may be found.

Beauty and an Ethic of Love

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

The Conversion of Saint Augustine, Fra Angelico 1435

With those words Augustine opens his Confessions, an autobiographical account of his personal and philosophical journey leading to his conversion to Christianity. In Christianity Augustine finds what was lacking, although not entirely absent from Platonic philosophy: an ethic of Love. While Plato placed an heavy emphasis on reason and the intellect he did stress the importance of love when discussing beauty where he differentiates between the love of sensible things below and the more important love of their Form above. So for example, the sensible love for the harmony of a particular music or the agreeableness of a young maiden might serve as a path for the soul's ascension to a principled love of the transcendental form of Beauty in and of itself. Neoplatonism expands on this view illustrating beauty as a composite form, a well-ordered arrangement revealed in the proportion, harmony, and symmetry of the parts as they relate to a united whole. This compositional perspective would play a large aesthetic role in the reemergence of all things Classical during the Renaissance.

Augustine saw in Christianity that salvation did not come from what we know, rather from what we love. Love is a virtue not of the intellect but the will. Love is what motivates us and he describes it thus: "Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul." Similar to Plato he distinguishes between a love of temporal, material things below (cupiditas), and the spiritual love for things eternal (caritas). Likewise, the beauty of the rationes seminales is revealed in the hierarchical arrangement and order of nature where everything has its place, where even the natural 'evils' inherent to mortality, decay, and death lead to a renewal of life thus serving the greater good and pointing to the realm above. God's creation is good, our senses exist to appreciate the beauty of nature, music, literature, etc. It is after all a love for truth that spurs us on to find the unity between the good and the beautiful in God as is manifest in the creation. Augustine goes on to redefine the Greek cardinal virtues in a Christian ethic of Love:

"I hold virtue to be nothing else than perfect love of God...that temperance is love keeping itself entire and incorrupt for God; fortitude is love bearing everything readily for the sake of God; justice is love serving God only, and therefore ruling well all else, as subject to man; prudence is love making a right distinction between what helps it towards God and what might hinder it."

Augustine's ethic of Love and its related cardinal virtues have acted as a guiding light for Christianity for 1,600 years. With it Augustine redeems the material, temporal, sensual life as being worthy of our contemplation and even love for it is in earthly goods we find the Good; in diverse truths we are directed to the Truth; in sensual beauties we are led to Beauty; in the harmony, order, and unity of form we are led inextricably to the One and what draws us forward is Love.

In our next essay we'll see the reemergent influence of Aristotle and its own influence upon Christianity via the medieval school of philosophy, Scholasticism and its most influential thinker, Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Contributed by Patrick Webb

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

New Testament and Early Church Conceptions of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness


Carl Heinrich Boch
Transfiguration of Jesus 1872

Upon undertaking a series of Christian perspectives on Truth, Beauty, and Goodness we quite understandably find echoes of what we've previously considered in Hebrew scripture and Jewish philosophical thought. Furthermore, there are overlaps and parallels with at least some Greek philosophical positions that gradually were integrated into Christian thought by the early church fathers. In Christianity there developed an openness between the revealed truth of revelation as inherited from the Jews and the truths of reason as encountered among the rapidly converting Gentiles. Despite significant secularisation over the past few centuries, social mores and societal structures based upon such an amalgamated perspective persist to this day, being broadly diffused through the culture of Western civilisation.

Goodness and Truth in the New Testament

"There is none Good but One, that is, God." - Matthew 19:17 KJV*

The insistence on the Unity of God is carried over from Hebrew scripture. God is One and God is the Good. God is absolute goodness, the only source. Nothing else is inherently good, rather only contingently so in as much as it partakes in God's goodness. In a relative sense, material things can be good if they fulfill their purpose. A "good" tree can be expected to produce "good" fruit. The goodness of human beings include purpose informed by knowledge. The "good" shepherd knows his sheep. Such examples are furnished only as parables or loose material analogies pointing to the good as something spiritual. 

"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." - Romans 7:18, 19

Interestingly, what is here said to possess the body is evil not the good. Evil thus has a positive, that is to say tangible existence. This is confirmed by Saint Paul's further admonishment to the church of Corinth against pride, "Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?" - 1 Corinthians 5:6. In contrast to Greek and particularly Platonic thought, evil is not merely a deprivation of the good rather it maintains its own existence, one with potential to corrupt the good. The good appears to be not native to the body but a struggle for the Christian to adopt, something acquired through knowledge. To a point this accords with the teaching of Socrates that a lack of doing good is based on ignorance, to know good is to act right. While Saint Paul also preached that knowledge is essential; nevertheless, both he and Saint James goes on to insist that doing good is not automatic and that to know the good and not practise it was an even greater evil: "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." - James 4:17

Pierre-Paul Prud'hon
Crucifixion 1822

"That they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." - John 17:3.

Once again the unity of God is stressed but this time in connection with truth and the role of the Christ as an emissary, a mediator between God and mankind of that truth. Furthermore, the imagery surrounding Christ involves light, explicitly so in the account of the transfiguration where his body and garments glow in blinding radiance whereas by contrast, midday darkness typifies his death at the crucifixion. So it is that truth is associated with light throughout the New Testament and particularly in the personage of Jesus Christ, "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." - John 1:9. The immateriality of truth is consistently reinforced and commensurate with the spiritual essence of the divine, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." - John 4:24.

Truth was likewise associated with knowledge as divine revelation, both in the Law given to the nation of Israel as well as God's word as related by the prophets and finally through the gospel or good tidings of the Messiah, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32. Repeatedly the spirit of truth is spoken of as being "in" the believer like a possession, described as a kind of "gnosis" or direct knowledge and awareness, a participation with the divine source of truth. While the faithful thus remained incarnate in this world and in their body, to become Christian was to be inhabited and thus transformed by spirit and truth. 

The Early Church Fathers and the Influence of Greek Philosophy

Saint Justin Martyr
With the rapid expansion of Christianity throughout the Roman empire, there would be inevitable contact and intellectual exchange with Greek philosophy, most notably in Egyptian Alexandria where Neoplatonism held sway. Many of the early church fathers had first been trained in Greek philosophy before coming to Christianity. This is a matter of autobiographical record for the 2nd century Justin Martyr who dabbled in Stoicism, progressing to Pythagoreanism before settling on Platonism prior to his conversion. Justin Martyr found accord between the Platonic concept of God as immaterial reason or Nous and the Christian view of God as spirit and truth. A Platonic cosmos ordered by the Demiurge matched up relatively nicely if somewhat imprecisely with a material world created by God that was thus good, being informed by divine purpose. How does Justin Martyr account for truth encountered in philosophy predating Christian revelation? His justification draws upon Stoic philosophical theory of the immaterial logoi spermatikoi immanent in matter, postulating that these men, "by means of the engrafted seeds of the Logos which was implanted in them, had a dim glimpse of the truth." 

Justin's successors, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian, likewise place a great deal of emphasis on the Logos, seeking to reconcile the description by Saint John with that found in Greek philosophy, "In the beginning was the Word [Logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." - John 1:1-3. However, such an attempted reconciliation presents difficulties as the Platonic concept was of a cosmos ex-materia, an eternal material reality separate from God, one only organised by a distinct Logos. Alternatively, the predominant Neoplatonic conceptions were based on an hierarchy of being, emanations of the divine, a cosmos ex-deo in which the Logos is again not co-eternal as an independent being, rather is formed as an initial outpouring of the One. These are fundamentally very different metaphysics than the Jewish tradition inherited in Christianity of a creation by God ex-nihilo. Clearly, there is a lot to be hammered out over the next couple of centuries as to what exactly Christianity will be able to integrate from Greek philosophy. What has come down to us as orthodox Christianity is aided in its establishment by defining itself in contrast with what it rejects, both from Greek philosophy and even more so of competing ideas from further East.

The Rejection of Gnosticism

Just as Christianity encountered Greek philosophy as it spread West, it likewise came into contact with preexisiting theology coming from the East. Many of the ideas associated with Gnosticism can be traced back to Persia and Zorastrianism. Nevertheless, Gnosticism embraces many varied beliefs. What is of interest here are fundamental concepts commonly held by Gnostics who identified as Christians that were treated as heretical by the mainstream beliefs of later orthodox Christianity.

Gnosis, is a Greek word for "knowledge", not knowing how or what, rather knowing who. It describes the type of intimate knowledge when you say that you know someone e.g. The path to gnostic salvation did not rest in belief or faith in doctrine, instead only by achieving gnosis, that is to say a direct apprehension of divine truth. The gnostic metaphysic is essentially dualist. The material world is described not as fallen rather formed flawed right from the start. This wicked Demiurge maker is sometimes described as the errant progeny of the divine Sophia or wisdom and identified with Yahweh of the Old Testament. The matter from which the cosmos is formed has an ambiguous status. It seems to be pre-existent and separate from God. However, what animates it and us is said to be a spark of the divine captured in its darkness, providing a path of return from this alien existence as strangers in a strange land. Gnostic Christians did not expect salvation by Christ as much as they expected to become Christ themselves.

Such a dualistic metaphysic of matter as evil and spirit alone as good presented some conflict with a Christian belief of creation ex-nihilo. Mainstream Christianity might have viewed mankind as fallen but it saw the cosmos as God's creation, thus essentially good. This belief is what made the Incarnation of Christ as the last Adam, the perfect man possible. For a Gnostic, mortal flesh was evil and so he rejected a literal interpretation of the Incarnation, claiming that either the man Jesus was possessed or alternatively was a mere illusion projected by the divine. Another consequence to their dualistic stance was an extreme form of asceticism that preached withdrawal from especially sensual, pleasurable activities such as food, drink, and sex. The gnostic influence was present right from the beginning of Christianity as Saint Paul warns against such, "doctrines of devils...forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused." - 1 Timothy 4:1-4. At no time did Gnostic Christianity dominate; however, it did continue as a persecuted heresy well into the 13th century when the last of the Cathars in France were forced to convert to Catholicism or face massacre.

Carcassonne, France

Until this point in Christianity's development beauty has not been a point of focus to the degree of goodness and truth. However, that is all about to change with the writings of Saint Augustine which we'll consider in the next essay in the series.

*All passages are from the Kings James Version unless otherwise noted

Contributed by Patrick Webb

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Fateful Attraction


Alfred Gilbert - Eros 1893
"Love is Love" or so the slogan goes as if love were trivial, univalent, and self-explanatory. To the contrary, the phenomenon of human attraction remains shrouded in mystery and tangled in complexity. The mythology surrounding love surviving from antiquity is at once comforting, distressing, and paradoxical. Among the ancient Greeks "Eros" arose before the gods, that which emerged out of the primordial chaos; a force of attraction that brought the male and female elements together to generate the cosmos. Yet later Eros is described reborn as a product of that very creation, the progeny of Aphrodite, the embodiment of sexual union. Expanding upon the Greeks, the Roman Cupid becomes but one of the "Erotes", by one account a full sibling of Hermaphroditus, the offspring of Mercury (Hermes) and Venus (Aphrodite), characterised by a bisexuality manifest in the flesh.

Giovanni Maria Benzoni
Hector and Andromache 1871

In Classical antiquity Love was primarily understood as a compelling force of attraction. Nevertheless, it was not considered value neutral, rather Love was laden, pregnant with meaning, much of which was ambiguous. For example, Love was not equated with the "Good". There were certainly fatal attractions for mortal men that ended heroes lives in tragedy and destroyed entire families. The Iliad is perhaps the most prominent example of a devastating act of love, that of Paris of Troy for Helen of Sparta, that serves as the catalyst for war, massacre, and the fall of an entire civilisation. In the same account, the hero Hector's love for his city and his own honour trumps the love of his wife and young son, driving him towards a certain, brutal death. Such mythologised accounts contain fascinating themes quite relevant to contemporary society.

The Greek concept of Love expanded in Hellenistic times, being incorporated into philosophy and ultimately Christianity where it merged with Jewish conceptions. In Western culture we have been thus bequeathed an hierarchy of Loves. Eros, that sexual passionate attraction shared with the animals is often associated with the fallen condition of mankind and beyond its necessity for reproduction has been held to be of questionable virtue. Next there is Storge, described as a familial affection that is likely to exist between parents and offspring. Though not considered sexual in character it describes natural bonds that we see again displayed by animals, in fact a bond that we may even share with an animal such as a pet with whom there is mutual loyalty and affection. The aforementioned "lower" Loves are necessary for procreation and nurturing to maturity. The first of the "higher" loves Philo literally means something like fraternity or brotherly love; however, it can extend to a more general sense of companionship and friendship. It is a voluntary attraction capable of rational agents based on common interests. Nothing is needed from the other party, philo is a love for love's sake, an uniquely human thing. Finally, at the top of the pyramid of Love lies Agape. In Christianity it is considered the highest virtue, a principled love of God for his truth, beauty, and goodness. It is an active, willful love not a passionate one. I have to say there is something a bit disinterested, cold, removed about it. Agape is held as what we "ought" to do, our highest moral obligation. Although active participation in religious practise has waned in the West I would contend that culturally we still hold Love, if in an increasingly muddled understanding, as the highest moral virtue for human beings. If only the world had more love!

All in the Family

That sexual attraction can be generative is uncontroversial, it was after all the very basis for our own conception. Subsequently, another aspect of love makes itself manifest upon birth, motivating parents to nurture their children to maturity. Neither is this love unidirectional; children naturally form strong attractive bonds for their parents. However, there arises difficulties in loving someone. First, the intensity of attraction will not be reciprocal. An imbalance of love leads of feelings of guilt, betrayal, and abandonment. Secondly and very much related, there always exists competition for love. Sons will often vie for the affection of their mother with their father; daughters do the same with their mother or other siblings for the attention of their father. This common pattern of jealousy and resentment betrays a taboo sexual undercurrent to what we want to imagine is nothing more than a "Platonic" love within the family. There are but some of the limitations with loving someone in the flesh. As there's only so much of them to go around, love is destined at some point to go unrequited. That sexual attraction can be destructive is likewise uncontroversial.

Edouard Toudouze - Farewell of Oedipus to the Corpses of His Wife and Sons 1871

All you need is Love?

Where might all of that unrecompensed attraction get directed? Obviously, children do grow up and in the normal course of life tend to fall in love and repeat the aforementioned cycle. However, if only that powerful, motivating attractive force could be harnessed and redirected! If only the object of love could be separated from the constraints of flesh and bone and made communal, psychological, spiritual even. Then perhaps it could serve as a limitless reservoir for an infinite amount of people! Such untapped potential has not been lost on savvy minds. And so we've a plethora of institutions that stand as gateways to love of God, love of country, love of ideology, love of love itself.  

As a brief aside, I should reiterate that humans aren't entirely unique as animals share a limited capacity for love. They'll almost always defend themselves, sometimes they'll fight for their mate, more often than not they'll sacrifice themselves for their young. Yet, humans have exponentially more capacity for love than any other creature that exists. Our love includes all of the above yet extends to concepts that prompt us to give much of our lives over to beliefs, to the extreme that we're often willing to sacrifice the natural bonds of family for them in a way that other animals lack the ability to even consider. Ironically the key to redirecting our attractive force towards a concept is that it must rematerialise. We need an idol, an avatar recipient for our love to flow. The receiving vessel can be a candidate, a guru, a revolutionary, a god. They can be alive or dead, real or imagined. What matters is that we believe. 

Clearly, that intangible sentiment we call Love is very powerful; moreover, it's potentially quite dangerous. I'd advise a cautious approach in its handling: be careful towards what and upon whom you bestow your love.

Contributed by Patrick Webb

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Fool on the Hill

Son of night and darkness, fraternal twin of misery, Momus is the Greek god of blame, mockery, and satire. Momus was THE fool of THE hill, that is to say the comic thorn in the sides of the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus. Momus first proved Athena goddess of wisdom wasn't half of clever as she thought she was.  He proceeded to praise the perfection of Aphrodite...less her creaky sandals and the fact that she talked too much. It was all good for a laugh so long as you weren't the butt of his mockery. However, nobody laughed when Momus openly ridicules the mighty Zeus for his many infidelities. Wrath incurred, Zeus tosses Momus from heaven, according to some accounts binding him to a rock for castration by the offended goddesses.

During the Medieval period, Momus became the model for the court jester. Outfitted in absurd regalia, the jester served a vital role as the conscience and moral mirror of the King. No matter the circumstance, one could count on the jester to tell the King the truth. When the censure of the jester was silenced by the censorship of the Sovereign you knew that the kingdom had succumb to tyranny. In a similar fashion, Renaissance and later writers such as Leon Battista Alberti and Thomas Wood employed the voice of Momus to express controversial criticisms of the church and secular authorities of their day. Below for your reading pleasure are a few aphorisms attributed to Momus, the Greek god of satire.

"Beauty and pain are in the eye of the beholder. Trust not your senses, for neither your joys nor your sufferings are real...and neither are you!" - The Scepticism of Momus

"the numbers aren't adding up..." - Momus Opines

  "A promise is a comfort to a fool.” - The Wisdom of Momus

“The 1st world aspiration for a global market has made its unholy alliance with the 2nd world craving for the total centralisation of authority whilst a 3rd world of autonomy and self-reliance fades from memory...Cheerio and Toodlepip!” - Momus on the 1.5 World

"Heraclitus once said 'panta rhei'; 'everything flows' or as I like to say, 'life is living'. That's not good advice, that's reality. Whether or not you get with living is up to you." - Momus on Living

“Light thy neighbour as thyself. Remember children it takes but a single flame to set the world alight!” - Momus' Brilliance

"I imagine there will a melancholic reflection at the twilight of our species upon our capacity to extract resources to depletion, to subject human will to algorithmic determination, to decimate the capacity for organic life on land, sea, and last chance to revel in our freedom from tradition and superiority over our ignorant forefathers before the lights go dim forever."

"This life will be the death of us!" - Proverb of Momus

“Rhetoric without dialectic is a mere tool of the appetites!” - A Toast of Momus

"So you say life is a grinding tyranny, everything must be overturned, you can't imagine anything worse than it is now. friends, I’d say you lack imagination." - Momus the Fool

“What is the present moment but a memory of a past consciousness? Of even that I’m quite appears I’m fading from existence continually, dying again and again.” - The Waking Dream of Momus

“Please don’t tear me down, I’m just a symptom! Statues come from ideas, ideas come from people, you people are thus the disease. You need to focus on the cure: When will you start tearing apart people?!” - The Logic of Momus

"Time for a cleansing sweep! There must be no price we won't pay to eliminate oppression! No sacrifice we won't make to terminate supremacy! Better to have no society at all than one where even an atom of hate remains alive!!" - Momus' Commitment


"The time for patience has run it's course, this suffering must end now. There is no place for racism, misogyny, and oppression in a free society of diversity, inclusion, and equity. Hatred must be met with the ultimate penalty. There is only hate and anti-hate!!" - Commitment of Momus

"The more skilled I've become in my art, the less interested others are in what I've to offer. The clearer I'm able to articulate that, the more inclined they are to turn a deaf ear." - The Slow Death of Momus 

“It’s not so much that the modern world will be held to account for its proliferation of hate, destruction, and ugliness; rather, modernity itself is already that punishment upon a generation that has defiled art, rejected culture, and despoiled nature...that have profaned any and everything honest, beautiful and sacred in this life.” - The Lamentation of Momus

"Failure that it is in oh so many ways, my life is not yet so wretched that I'm quite prepared to surrender it to something greater than myself. Who's the fool?" - Momus in his Cups

“There’s a certain purity of blackness of that heart which’ll brook no delusions of a better world, that alights the fire for the sake of blood, and pain...that will destroy itself with the clear vision that it’s all for nothing.” - The Madness of Momus
"Activists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your minds!" - Momus’ Manifesto
“Now gentlemen, one must remember the first and absolutely most important thing to be done when confronted with an insoluble crisis is to establish blame.” - The Counsel of Momus 

“Unlike you my little friend, it would appear that man is not a domesticable animal.” - Musings of Momus
"Oh sugar, don't y'all know there's no such thing as a naked grab for power! We like to put on our high heels and lofty ideals before we paint the town red with the blood of the dead." - Masquerade of Momus 

“I imagined a world with no possessions, nothing to live or die for…I fear it may almost be here” – The Fool on the Hill
“Beware of Section 4!” - Momus’ Warning
"Safe? You're not safe. At best you've never had anything but the false illusion of safety." - Momus stating the Obvious
 "Surveillance is Safety. A chip for every citizen. A drone for very household. That's my promise to you." - Momus 2020
"Truth? Logic? Reason? The day of revolution is coming when one will have to decide whether to be on the 'right side of history' or just dead right." - Alas, poor Momus
"Beware the expert convincing you of a certain harm with the promise of an uncertain benefit." - Momus told you so
“In my experience ‘no means no’ often means maybe, sometimes even probably...” - Momus on apples
"Peace, peace, peace, shanti, shanti, shanti...unless of course they hold the wrong opinion, i.e. the one that conflicts with your own." - The Onefold Path of Momus
“Justice? One for, two, three for me. God damn, if that ain’t the oldest trick in the book!” - Momus knows what’s up their sleeve
No Piece for Just Us  
“People tell the truth more often than we give them credit for. When folks tell you who they are over, and over, and over again you might consider believing them.” - Momus looking out for Momus
“There are few burdens in this life that are not felt a wee bit lighter after a kettle of tea.” - Momus takes
honey and a spot of cream
“What is truth for most of us but belief in the words of an authority figure in which we surrender our trust.” - Momus’ Commitment Issues 

“One never truly gets away with anything. In the final accounting, your life amounts to the sum total of the poor decisions you’ve made.” - Momus not playing with a full deck

The concept of a ‘social construct’ is by definition itself a social construct.” - Momus’ reality check

“Zoom not doom. Isolation is salvation. Remember, virtual life is the virtuous life! - Momus 2.0
“The imminent threat of the stick makes the alternative of the carrot all the more alluring.” - What’s up Momus?
"Fools to my left prattle on about equality while jokers to my right clamour incessantly for freedom; I'd be hard pressed to think of two things more confessedly absurd, more contrary to the laws of nature than Equality and Freedom!" - Momus has an headache

“No need for despair...there’s a stick for every hole.” - Momus Snookers
“Sing it with me now:

‘D’ means: di-ver-si-ty
Long as: you-look-like-me

‘I’ is for: in-clu-sion
Pick and choose: who-you-shun

‘E’ gives us: e-qui-ty
Get what’s mine: i’ll-be-free

Together we can

Lets all just

The ballad of Momus
“Fear is the power before which every knee must bend. She has compelled you to believe anyone and made you accept anything.” - Momus says the joke’s on you
"Is race 'real'?  If by real you mean a widely held, persistent, self-propagating, social construct claiming that the most significant and meaningful differences among human beings must be superficial physiological ones...well in that case, sure why not.  Race must be just as real as any other pathological delusion you suffer from." - Momus in denial
“Never repress your feelings. The case could be made that suppressing one’s actions and speech is part of being a social creature. And in practical terms we obviously can’t choke to death absolutely everyone that irritates us. That’s alright though, we have imagination for that!” - Momus gets creative

“Anyone who thinks marriage is ‘just a piece of paper’ has obviously overlooked the fine print.” - Momus gets hitched
“What remedy can there be for the blunders of technology but further technology?” - Momus makes progress

“Darling, I’m not leaving because I don’t care. It’s just that I haven’t the stomach to presence an unfolding catastrophe about which I can do nothing.” - It’s not you, it’s Momus
“It requires the special idiocy of a peasant to consign one’s own inheritance to the flames.” - Momus goes up in smoke
“Accord your fellowman all the respect due a feral beast. The ever-present threat of immediate, extreme violence lies at the very heart of all peaceful, civilised human relations.” - No pacifying Momus
“From the cradle to the grave, human dignity amounts to never providing for a person what they can provide for themself.” - hands off Momus
“Note to victims: if you insist upon walking through life oblivious you will be complicit in whatever befalls you. No matter what story you’ve been told, you are primarily responsible for yourself.” - Momus won’t suffer himself gladly
"Quick poll: how many agree that radio-frequency identification
subcutaneous microchip implants ought to be mandatory with enforced vaccination? (this is a safe space to freely express your support for the only morally correct view)" - Momus at warp speed
"What is a 'nice person' but a finely crafted masque to amplify the sound of one's own ignorance?" - Momus' reflection in a mirror darkly
"History amounts to little more than a pack of lies agreed upon...wouldn't you agree?" - Momus assimilates 

"There's no evidence you're a good person, that you're even much 'civilised. No, not really. What you are my furry little friend is warm and well fed. - fat and happy Momus
"It's not really reason that separates us from other animals, it's empathy. Empathy is the motive force behind our greatest virtues as well as our most heinous atrocities. Empathy is the basis of praise or blame, mercy or condemnation." - Momus' moment of lucidity
"In the end, if you look closely enough at this thing men call 'power', you'd realise that it's really nothing more than an intolerable servitude that one would do best to avoid." - Momus wants out

“Man is a moral animal, a judgemental machine. The man who claims freedom from discrimination is either wholly defective or a complete imbecile, but more likely a liar.” - Momus’ pickled as a herring
"Unless you're absolutely willing to accept every belief and any behaviour, your calls for inclusivity amount to figuring out who you're going to exclude and why." - Momus feels rejected

"When I was a child I had a vision for world unity. I thought how wonderful it will be when everyone has electricity, everyone has a car, everyone speaks English, everyone is equal...because they're just like me! I think I might be forgiven for that; after all, it was the infantile thinking of an undeveloped, immature child." - Grow up Momus
"The thing one must admire most about the historic self-preservation movement is their desire to freeze in amber the best remains of a dwindling supply of anything beautiful in this world because they know in their heart of hearts we can never, ever, ever have it again." - Less is Momus
"Cognition arrests transmission. If you want your idea to spread and receive wide acceptance make sure that it's devoid of intellectual content." - Momus goes bacterial 

"All that you pursued, acquired, and gave much of it meant anything to you beyond what you hoped might impress some passerby? Were disinterest, envy and resentment the rewards you were expecting?" - Momus makes an impression

"When the entire world in all its strivings is found to be in complete tumult, visited by plague after calamity, with the hand of each man at his brother's throat...well, my advice is to find a quiet spot, lie back, yawn, and dream about naked thighs." - Momus tickled pink

"Don't let them tell you any different, there is justice and equality in the world. It's true, we may never achieve what we'd hoped; however, in the end we all get what's coming." - The sun sets on Momus

“My good doctor has placed me on light duty, my being advised to lift nothing more than a fair maiden’s petticoat.” - Pound me too Momus

"Now darling, do remember that without sin there is simply no basis for forgiveness." - By the grace of Momus
“It’s bad enough being hungry. So sense in being hungry and tired.” - Momus is begging for it
"There are two narratives running in parallel regarding the relationship of men towards women. One is that throughout history boys have loved their mothers, fathers their daughters, and husbands their wives. Then there is the true one that men only wish to dominate and systematically oppress when they've had their fill of raping." - Time's up Momus
“The first lie is the worst lie. It’s the sweet one we whisper to ourselves.” - Busted Momus
“Thieves, murderers, and I come from a long line of bastards. They’re the ones who survived!” - Momus takes stock
“My thoughts on the nature vs nurture debate are as follows: no matter what you tell him or what you do, your little boy is going to grab handfuls of sand and throw them at the ocean.” - The Oracle of Momus
"You might want to quell your excitement for what they're giving you just long enough to consider, if but for a moment, what you're about to lose forever." - Think Momus Think
"Just remember, you are the victim. Mostly of your insatiable appetites, unchecked lust, and impulsive desires. But definitely the victim." - Momus was dealt a bad hand

 "Change the you don't have to change yourself, ever." - Momus' protest
"I'm very good with my hands but I'm exceptional with my tongue...or so I've been told." - Momus plays along
"Folks don't respect me for my mind, they only want me for my body." - Momus' naked truth

"If you're master of your own body, they'll be justified in suspecting you may've clue of what to do with theirs." - Momus is a dancing fool

"Depression, anxiety, grief are not pathologies to be fixed, rather fundamental aspects of one's humanity; appropriate responses to the tragic nature of our existence." - The Tears of Momus
“A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips...if one should be so lucky.” - Momus loves Mischief
"No guilt, no shame, no remorse. I know who and what I am and I just love what I see." - Momus reflects
"The trouble with craftsmen, farmers and all the other little people is that they're too preoccupied building up the world to help burn it down with the best of us." - Momus is Revolting
 "I'm very understanding of insecure people. What I primarily understand is that I don't want them anywhere near me." - Antisocialist Momus

"Who you really are and why you do what you do are far more complicated than you could possibly even begin to understand." - Momus strings us along

“The most unhelpful thing I ever told a friend was that there was nothing wrong with her.” - Over a barrel with Momus

"It's not just a mistake, rather a violation of his dignity, liberty, and person to care for an individual more than he’s willing to care for himself." - Momus wants for no one

“Who wouldn’t play the madman, when the king himself is insane?” - In Momus’ Shoes
“The distinction between what is natural and artificial is a simple one. Whereas everything man makes breaks down, the growth of nature, even when apparently chaotic, is but a transitory stage towards higher levels of holistic complexity.” - Momus’ Razor
"Now you see, what they neglect to mention is that those who do trouble themselves to learn from history are damned to bollocks everything up in an entirely novel way." - Momus 101 

"A wise man was once purported to have said: 'The heaviest load we carry are the thoughts in our heads.' I find that to be an highly charitable statement." - Momus being an ass
“The amazing thing about people is that, as individuals, we’re almost all wise and aware of what is right; but when we form ourselves into a group we forget anything that doesn’t suit our own pleasure and don’t care whether what we undertake is pernicious and base so long as we can have our way.” - Momus’ Ship of Fools
“It is an hopeful yet typically erroneous belief that fear and distrust is based solely on ignorance of the ‘other’. The disturbing reality is that our most intractable hatreds are rooted in a deep familiarity.” - to know Momus

“You know, contrary to popular belief there are really only two races. Care to guess what they are?  I’ll give ya an hint: one is more vital than the other and begins with a ‘W’. - Momus is dynamite

"I propose that those who are wholly against the idea of servants have never truly lived with nor experienced the benefits of servitude." - Momus at your service

“As the mysteries of nature have been sucessively unmasked, the old myths losing hold on the imagination, the superstitious terrors of the nite dissipating, in their place appears the nausea and unease of modernity, the plethora of systems we can’t hope to understand, hurtling us forward with an uncontollable inertia towards an yawning abyss. Our foolish ancestors might well would ask us if the stories we tell ourselves today to situate ourselves in this maelstrom, are these any less fanciful? - Momus in the Tempest

 “What is the progress of civilisation but an unfettered, unrelenting pogrom of improvement visited upon the unfortunate whether they want it or not? - Momus knows best
“The city occupies a special, unique place in human culture. Having established the best way of life, it is the only form of societal organisation that is completely intolerant of other forms of existence.” - Momus or else
“When you beat a fool, you don’t make a wise man of him. All you’ve to show for your troubles is a sore hand and a beaten fool.” - Momus’ voice of experience
 "Beware of charismatic leaders. The world needs healing, not saving." - Momus' out of tune
 “The reason you want to be better is the reason why you aren’t.” - Momus knows what’s Watts’
“Need I remind you that “stupid” is not a protected classification. It’s open season on all you dumbass mother...” - Momus’ locked and loaded


“When they say ‘violence begets violence’...well, I’d suggest they’re not doing it right.” - Lights out Momus

"If someone tells you 'we're all liars', might you not be a wee bit gullible to take them at their word?" - honestly Momus

 "Be brutal, just tell me. I can handle this. I really need to know. On a scale of 9 to 10 with 9.5 being the highest...honestly, how am I doing?" - The fragility of Momus

"A wise mystic once told me, 'cultivate your own garden before spreading seeds abroad.' So...

There is no righteousness like self-righteousness
There is no righteousness like self-righteousness
There is no righteousness like self-righteousness" 

- Momus' Mantra

“If your inner compulsion is to constantly signal how woke you are, how awakened can you truly be?” - Momus needs a nap

 "Those who disparage and discount the Postmodernist
philosophies in their entirety, fail to acknowledge that there are specks of gold in and amongst the mountain range of sludge.

One must kiss many, many frogs before finding one's prince." - Momus warts and all
"Before you depart upon a journey of revenge, dig two graves. Well, at least two, perhaps three, maybe even as many as seven or eight depending how successful you anticipate being." - Momus gets his hands dirty
"The capacity for empathy manifest by human beings far exceeds that of any other creature. This no doubt explains our penchant for torture e.g." - Momus knows how you feel
“Everything else is a distraction. The looming economic apocalypse is identical with the approaching environmental collapse. In the end, there is no wealth but life.” - broke and broken Momus
"And to think that a few stray rays of far flung suns that've long burnt cold have managed to guide us through the deep and shape the course of human history." - the sign of Momus

"Whereas you console yourself that nothing you do really matters, the more daunting prospect remains ever present, gnawing away inside you that everything you do in fact matters oh so very much." - no escaping Momus

"The difficulty with maintaining the Revolution is that we
seldom can find the stomach to do what is necessary to our own children and grandchildren that which we are so proudly, virtuously prepared to carry out upon our neighbours, brothers, sisters, and parents." - Momusism
 "As we take hold each one the hand of his brother in a spirit of distrust and animosity, walking together towards this one, certain, predetermined future, I reflect on this great and noble experiment: the Freedom of Limited Choice." - Momus registers his compliance
“Force is seldom necessary when you voluntarily accept the legitimacy of an authority. You will internalise their values, justify impositions you can’t hope to understand and gladly surrender your very body and that of your children to their will. There is no vaccine for scientific propaganda.” - Needling Momus

“Well of course I objectify you my dear. You’re soft, warm, and taste delicious. I don’t exactly make love to an idea.” - Bon apetit Momus
“So at what point does a person cease to be the victim, so as to become the perpetrator?” - Momus’
everlasting childhood

“Clean energies will never solve Dirty uses.” - Mean Green Momus

"We've determined that it takes 13 years to deconstruct a human being, breaking all significant ties of kinship and natural inclination. It requires an additional 4 to 9 years of capital investment to structure the resultant product for the specific functional requirements of the system." - Momus on the value of a good education

"We used to castigate a child as unruly who could not sit down, shut up, and internalise abstract indoctrination for decades. Now parents understand this inconvenient condition of their children to be a disease that must be treated by experts with narcotics." - Momus takes his medicine

"One of the oft unheralded benefits of initiation into a cult is intimate exposure to the inner workings of unrelenting psychological manipulation. Another is the revelation that ’normal’ society is organised along parallel lines." - Momus' eyes wide shut

“To properly prepare oneself to argue with a fool, one should first pass long hours practising before a mirror.” - Momus’ wisdom is Debatable

“Never think that your willing participation doesn’t serve a purpose. Democracy is the most effective form of governance in establishing a sense of shared culpability and communal guilt.” - Vote for Momus

"This mate of mine was complaining that you lasses tend to be irrational, oversensitive, and lack ambition. He could've saved us both some time by saying that you lot are just like us lads." - Momus on thin ice

“Whereas force demands the expenditure of physical or economic advantage to overcome another’s will, domination utilises psychological manipulation to bend another’s will to reinforce that advantage.” – May the force be with Momus
“To ‘speak truth to power’ is a metaphor. The only thing power respects is power.” – Merry old Momus is getting hoarse

"Original thinking is in fact exceedingly rare. It usually happens by accident when attempting to judiciousnessly plaigarise from the previous work of others." - Copy that Momus

“Me brutha got a tip from a gypsy:

She say you hidin' from reality
In your world of Hipocrisy”

- Momus’ New Craze


"A version of the following question has been making the rounds:

'What if humans are the viruses destroying the planet and plagues are the earth's vaccine?'

Well isn't that marvelous. How courageous, self-sacrificing, and morally upright it must be to stand with mother earth! Although personally, I'd be hard pressed to come up with a more dehumanisng, genocidal thought. After all, we all know there's only one thing to be done with a virus..." - No Immunity to Momus


“A society might well be judged by the treatment of its most vulnerable members, those who can’t defend themselves, having no legal standing; take chickens and the unborn for instance.” - Momus says their body, your choice
“The difficulty with repression of one’s feelings is that self-loathing is not
sustainable. Sooner or later one will project one’s hatred toward those who illicit those feelings.” - The Isle of Momus
“We tend to condemn the fellow who finds attractive every girl he meets when we ought take pity on him for his faculty of repulsion not functioning correctly.” - Momus’ lost lust

"You heard it was said, ‘Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you: do ye even so to them.’

Whereas I say: 'As far as humanly possible leave people the goddamn hell alone.'"

- Saint Momus' Platinum Rule

"There used to exist a diagnosis for a person who persists in a false, fixed belief of identification with something that they are demonstrably not. Delusional psychosis if memory serves..." - Momus off his meds

 "Just remember, it's the cock's mouth that finds the cock in the pot." - Mum as Momus
"Well to keep in mind, not everything that comes from heaven is a blessing." - Momus would know
"It's becoming difficult to distinguish between the terrors of the darkness and
my waking nightmares." - Haunted Momus
"The presence of my absence is a world that questions nothing of real importance." - Momus' Surreality

"We've rescued ourselves from the horrors of the 20th century where one man could change everything to be delivered into a world where no one can possibly change anything." - the Impotence of Momus

"To be honest I don't care about you. How could I when I don't know you personally?

At most I'm attached to an idea of you I've formed in my head which is essentially to say I'm self-interested." - Momus lays his cards on the table

"To allow someone to change your mind is by definition to succumb to a coercive power, a violation of your psyche, a penetration into your very thoughts." - Momus isn't up for Debate

"Happiness is a dismal pursuit, one at odds with the whole constitution of the universe. Barely perceptible over the long run, it only comes into sharp focus by intense contrast with a profound misery. You shouldn't wish it upon your worst enemy let alone for your children." - Momus' blessed advice

“Man is a natural born killer. I’ve yet to meet an happy vegan or a miserable hunter.” - a medium rare thought from Momus
“If you don’t want her all the time, if you don’t wish you could dissolve into her, well then whatever it is you think you’re feeling, it’s not love.” - Thirsty Momus

“I’m all for the abolition of the death penalty. My only insistence is that the murderers go first.” - Unbecoming Momus

“Sharing the blessings of civilisation with the unfortunate, notably technological advancement and childhood education, have been the most culturally destructive activities in human history.” - Momus’ good intentions

“I don’t care what they say, it’s entirey possible to unite a society on the basis of peace and love. I mean, so long as there are enough folks left over to serve as the object of its collective aggression.” - Discontented Momus

“It’s not the Good as such that the Devil opposes. Rather it’s Life he’s against; that unquantifiable, unbridled, ‘of itself so’ aspect of existence, beyond any possibility of control.” - what’s gotten into Momus?
“I think the folks so adamant against magical thinking and those responsible for the disenchantment of the world are closely related if not one and the same person.” - Hocus Pocus Momus

“Identity groups whose leaders can be manipulated serve an important function to civilisation. With religion emasculated, it provides the commoners purpose in life and an outlet for their repressed aggression that having every material need met thru unbridled consumption has been unable to satiate.” - Momus’ New Credulity

“People either have the capacity for good and bad or else they come into the world wholly evil. Unfortunately those are the only two options my little friend.” - Momus swaps black dog for monkey

“You cannot hide from the things you’ve done nor even your ill intent. When the authorities aren’t watching you directly, they’ve established a garrison in your mind like an occupied territory, ready to mete out punishment.” – Momus is watching...always

“I don’t have a drinking problem; I absolutely love to drink. What I suffer from is a metabolism of alcohol deficiency.” – Momus is his own reward
“What is a craftsman but a workman who is resigned to the fact that, whatever else happens, his work shall be deemed kitsch, pastiche, anachronistic, out of touch with the present Zeitgeist?” - Modernist Momus
"An Enlightened One once said, 'life is suffering.' It could very well be that those preoccupied with alleviating mental anguish and eliminating physical pain in the world are in reality manifesting their fixation with death." - RIP Momus
“Each man is his own universe and like the universe is in a constant state of change and motion. Such dynamic particularity presents an inconvenient obstacle to the stereotyping necessary to efficiently sort ‘those people’ into their respective identity group.” - Momus’ frustration
“So for how many generations must a people stay put in a given place before they’re considered indigenous, that it can rightly be considered their home?” - Momus on the move
 “An equally difficult question: After how many generations of absence do a people cease to be considered indigenous, that they lose the right to their ancestral home?” - Momus living rough
"The biological risk to your well-being seems real enough. However, as I witness the greatest transfer of wealth, the unprecedented restriction of travel, and the vast consolidation of corporate and governmental authority, I just wonder if a bug constitutes the threat you should be most obsessing over." - Momus ain't whistling Dixie
"Remember children, a handful of folks making the decision on behalf of the rest of us to destroy property we hold in common is the very foundation of a peaceful protest. It may not be precisely democratic but no one can deny that it's popular. In fact, I'd say it's all the rage." - Light 'em up Momus
"As I observe all those who proclaim peace, love, diversity, inclusion, equality begin to devolve and surrender themselves to their basest instincts, I feel a sense of connection if not outright camaraderie. They're not that different, in fact they're just like the rest of us." - The brotherhood of Momus
"My feelings on late term abortion are as follows: a mother's rights should pass to the wife who will retain the right to terminate until the 163rd trimester." - Momus better watch himself
“Imagine a world where there’s no religion to divide us, where all humanity unites in common cause, where inequalities are but a fading memory, where the colour of your skin means less than your commitment to your brother...where those who don’t share this blessed vision are interned in camps far, far away.” - Momus’ been there, done that

Who is Momus?

"One wise, bloody kraut
almost sussed me out

I’m known by many names, you would be wise to shun:
‘I am the spirit of perpetual negation;

And rightly so, for all things that exist
Deserve to perish, and would not be missed’”

- Momus, plasterer of lies

“But of course I understand the experience of being a woman. I’m half woman after all, my mother being a woman.” - The fluidity of Momus
"I'm curious how many generations it will take of human beings living in material comfort and security before they entirely lose any and all instinctual capacity for survival. If I were pressed to hazard a guess I would say three sounds like a good number." - Fat Cat Momus
"The very first, most critical, and constantly reinforced lesson of a proper education convinces the child that the very process of learning anything is an institutional one wielded by experts in a position of authority that is based upon accreditation and certification.This lesson may take up to two decades to sink in." - Stay in School Momus


"Class consciousness is hardwired into our society from early childhood through passivity and dependence upon bureaucratic schemes that dispense knowledge as a commodity, picking and choosing who will progress thru the system in what are literally called 'Classrooms.'" Momus don't need no thought control

"Justice has evolved from the naked interest of the stronger into the blind, deaf, and dumb judgement of our peers." - Momus' Court of Fools
“If you are thoroughly convinced that you are being kept down...well, in that case you most certainly are.” - Systemic Momus
“Revolutionary urges are today subsumed and repackaged as
consumable commodities in a matter of days if not hours by near omniscient, practically immortal institutions. At this point entropy is mankind’s only chance; global systems of production and control collapsing under their own dysfunction because their complexity surpasses our ability to understand and thus patch them up. This alone holds the promise of one day painfully returning a remnant of our children to a simpler life of just muddling through bare existence.” - Momus comes into his inheritance
“As man has lost sight of the end of his life, the unguided and ever-amplifying means of his continued existence have spiraled out of control.” - what’s the point Momus?
 "A blessing of submitting oneself to a discipline, mastering a skill with one's body, is that it liberates one to think freely whilst working. Quite often the very exercise of the skill itself constitutes an act of meditation." - Namaste Momus

"Beware of the man with the plan, promising to elevate your happiness by divvying up your existence into discrete, rational sections. Be the architect of your own bloody life for heaven's sake!" - Momus by Design
"The capacity of calibrated technologies to measure, calculate, and refine have long since eclipsed human sensory abilities. Nevertheless, I've developed no sympathy with the precision of the machine, pitifully remaining quite content with what is perfectly human." - i'll go rhythmic Momus
 "As regards the populist politicians, I don't assign them much credit nor do I cast upon them all blame. They are but a hazy reflection of the system that brought them into being. Also a sacrificial lamb for the mob when they can no longer summon the promised miracles." - Momus thinks he's above it all
"Reflecting upon the development of my own thinking I can only hope that it continues as a messy organism that matures rather than a beautiful gemstone that has crystalised." - Scattered Momus
“I’m all for maintaining what is good for human flourishing and our natural home. Yet I’m open to change when it’s no longer working, especially for some. Conservative or Liberal ought not be predetermined, hardened commitments rather responsive, adaptable behaviours in a dynamic world of flux.” - Momus, what a fool believes
“Academic and professional certification has become the universal criterion for all human knowledge and now serves as the primary form of discrimination, unquestioned as entirely legitimate.” - Momus’ expert assessment
"That someone who has dropped out of a university degree programme after several years of schooling is considered even more of a failure than someone who has simply completed high school suggests that the primary purpose of institutional education may not be about learning at all." - Momus is stumped

"Adjust your attitude towards gratitude:

For the food you consume but cannot grow
For the shelter you inhabit but cannot build
For the clothes on your back that you don't want to even think about where that comes from

Your great-grandparents may've been allowed to provide all these things for themselves but know that you never will." - Live, Laugh, Love Momus


Love is Love

An example of what the old philosophers would call a 'tautology': a meaningless platitude, devoid of intellectual content, that contributes absolutely nothing to human knowledge whatsoever." 

- Bless your heart Momus

"I regret to inform you darling that there will be no flattening of the curves." - This just in Momus
“What is a Classicist but one whose life and career is quite literally in ruins?” - stultorum calami carbones moenia chartae Momus

“Yes sure there’ve been a few missteps, a couple even that threaten all life on earth, but who seriously can resist the promises of progress?” - Full steam ahead Momus

“Unlike justice, greed is never blind.” - 20/20 Momus
“The choice to guide your life by reason is itself not a rational one.” - Momus decides to decide
“We do not yet understand the social ramifications of the degradation of psychological structures inherent to poetry, idiomatic language, myth, and belief. All early indications point to collective insanity.” - Fade to Momus
“You and I, our lives are an interwoven tapestry, and a beautiful one at that.” - For the love of Momus

“Someone called me out as a ‘prick’ yesterday. I felt compelled to point out that for those of us who speak the English language the word is ‘prig’. A ‘prick’ is the twitch of the ears of your ass when called to supper. This did not serve to diffuse the tension.” - What an ass Momus
“The thought that knowledge is somewhere out there, recorded in books, the internet, or any medium outside of a body is a confused idea. Knowledge arises within a living organism from interaction with its environment.” - Momus you dunce

“We’re blessed to have a number of industries to cater to our pathological dissatisfaction with our very being through mind altering pharmaceuticals and carnal mutilation.” - Just Say Yes Momus
“If you’re confused about or can’t accept who and what you are, why on earth would you expect that anyone else should?” - Momus in Denial
“Betrayal is the greatest sin against love, one that casts its victim into the  wilderness, leaving them to question their very capacity to know what is real.” - Everything is dark Momus
“Caring about the world outside is a luxury afforded to those fortunate enough not to be consumed by loneliness.” - A speck of Momus
“Do you imagine you and the universe are two? Hold your breath.” - Momus’ cold heart

“I’m quite distrustful of the type that seems perpetually happy. There’s something distinctively reptilian about them.” - Momus sheds his skin
“Contrary to popular belief, joining the peace corps, saving baby sea turtles, or committing yourself to any other so-called ‘helpful’ activity directed against the unfortunate will not act as an antidote for you not dealing with your personal shit.” - Misanthropic Momus
"It must be the rare mother, who upon looking into her newborn's eyes for the first time does not believe in miracles" - the magic of Momus
“As man arose from his ignorant, superstitious past, the cold light of reason cleansed the sense of wonder from his now enlightened mind. Yet there is a new woke generation that will supplant even his remaining dreams with ethical conviction and moral certitude.” - Momus making progress
“Generally speaking I’d say men handle rejection rather well, far better than we give them credit for. Makes sense, as we know they’ve vastly more experience with it.” - Lady Momus
“What we’ve learned is that some people cannot be shamed. The task before us is how to escalate mandatory universal enforcement.” - The naked truth of Momus
“The mark of a good leader? Never settle for trust when you’ve the power to control.” - Momus off his leash
“We already have great leaders. What we presently lack is a better class of sufficiently submissive followers. Hence the value of early education. No youth must be left behind if they are to be the vanguard of a well planned future (strings securely attached).” - Momus you lunatic
"Living humbly off what the land provides, building your own
shelter from simple tools combined with the human hand, evenings passed in song and smoke...this has come back in vogue as an elitist fantasy existence of a well-heeled bourgeoisie." - Trustafarian Momus
“How did they say ‘the lesser of two evils’ in German?” - time to pick Momus
"Yoga has matured into an industrially administered therapy for accentuating happy thoughts to the exclusion of your negative energy, thus shifting your guilt ridden consciousness into a steady state of productive benefit to society." - Down and out dog Momus
“The real benefit of a two party system is that they can alternate taking the lead in instilling fear in the population. The only downside being the odd trampling of a citizen in the mad dash to abdicate one’s civil liberties.” - Momus you can believe in
"It's reassuring to witness that despite respected positions, esteemed
educations, and protests to the contrary, with the slightest applied pressure my friends and colleagues reveal themselves to be the beasts they are." - Who let the dogs out Momus?
“All too often women are the victims of male aggression. Lamentably this places us girls as the second most dangerous, violent, stone-cold killers on the face of the planet.” - The Momus of the species
“People are not half as civilised as they pretend to be.” - Proceed with caution Momus
“Thank god children are small, weak, and inexperienced. They’re pint-sized sociopaths, the lot of them.” - Momus should be seen and not heard, preferably not seen either
"You entrap more flies with honey than vinegar. When looking to seduce others with your ideology and melt away any opposition, pick a name that no one can argue against without looking foolish. I mean come on, who doesn't want to think of themselves as modern, social, communal e.g.?" - Momus' Honeypot
 “Both the dismissal of regressively looking back to the primitive traditions of our forefathers as well as justification for all the horrors visited upon us by modernity have oft been expressed in two simple words: Modern Dentistry.” - mike drop Momus
“To fall in love with someone is the greatest act of exclusion and discrimination of which an human being is capable, one that must be fully extricated and subsequently forbidden if we’re ever to realise a truly just, equal society.” - Love ain’t Love Momus

“I’d lay waste to every man, woman, and child on the face of the earth without a moment’s hesitation if it meant saving my lover. Be thankful we don’t have children.” - Count your blessings Momus
"There is no greater act of political will than to subject to critical examination the very structures of governance, commerce, and social organisation that we've inherited." - Oh, just pick a damn side and move on Momus
“Well, ‘leaving it to the experts’ requires more faith in human nature than I’ve ever been able to muster.” - Momus lacks your confidence
“Whether the globe is warming or cooling, I’ve no clue. But I don’t need a scientific study to convince me that living in your own rottenous filth is a piss poor idea.” - EcoMomus

“C’mon gents, how can you call it a conspiracy when they spend millions to explain exactly what they’ve planned, how you best accept it as there’s nothing you can do about it anyway?” - Jane Foole you ignorant slut

“Saint James asks: ‘Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?’ Well, if this is an analogy for human behaviour the answer is yes, absolutely, practically every time, it’s like what we do.” - Ecce Momo
“As our machine creations progressively commandeer our thoughts, dreams, songs, and sensations we slowly, imperceptibly fade away in blank-eyed passivity, weaving ourselves into a world-wide cocoon of human dormancy.” - Momus’ real virtuality
“The coming automation of all human productive activity holds the promise that for the first time in human history it will be impossible for man to profit from the sweat and toil of his brother.” - Momus’ land of milk and honey
"Now, who would dare argue that the monopoly on extreme violence should not be the exclusive privilege of the state?" - Momus speaks with authority
"There are those who believe that human imagination is limitless, that it can conceive anything. And that my friend is about as close to that fantasy as we're ever likely to get." - just a Momo Sapien

"Careful what you wish for. The unity of mankind might very well be the greatest existential threat to life on earth." - game over Momus
“If it were up to me, I’d take away all your technolgy, abolish all your governments, and return you to living like the animals you are. Hah, and you call me the dangerous one!” - Momus goes apeshit
“That the only sustainable future for humanity may be a simpler life of muddling through with a few friends and family is a wildly unpopular idea that goes against every instinct of human nurture.” - Momus will tend his jardin
“I mean, you do realise that those who’ve dedicated their lives to changing, improving, and bettering everything and everyone are the very ones that hate humanity just as we are the most?” - What’s wrong with you Momus?

"Do keep in mind that when someone presents you the 'facts' or chastises you for not accepting the 'facts', that the word literally means something 'made', 'manufactured'; that is to say predigested for ease of your consumption." - Tasteless Momus
“‘Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité ou la mort!’ Of course now any questioning of these great virtues resulting in death is just implied...” - Vive le Momus!
“Wisdom espoused outside a credible authority is just a fool banging on.” - the Momus inherent in the system
“There is no keeping down the human spirit. As one set of ideals loses its appeal, another will spring forward with new vigour...and the body count to follow.” - Cheers Momus 

"We do understand an 'artefact' to be a physical object made my hand. Modern man has metaphorically extended this to 'fact' as psychological concept, an immaterial object of knowledge manufactured by intellectual artisans that can be possessed, recorded, and shared outside of personal experience. Formerly this was known as a belief." - have a little faith Momus
Contributed by Patrick Webb