Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Philosopher's Stone

This book came to me at the most perfect time.  I read Simon Critchley's various introductions in his The Book of Dead Philosophers today and felt psychic relief.  Here is not an "answer", but definitely a way:

"To philosophize is to learn how to die."  The main task of philosophy, in this view, is to prepare us for death, to provide a kind of training for death, the cultivation of an attitude towards our finitude that faces--and faces down--the terror of annihilation without offering promises of an afterlife (xv-xvi).

What we seem to seek is either the transitory consolidation of momentary oblivion or a miraculous redemption in the afterlife (xv).

But the deep truth [about America's Christianity] is that such religious belief, complete with a heavenly afterlife, brings believers little solace in relation to death.  The only priesthood in which people really believe is the medical profession and the purpose of their sacramental drugs and technology is to support longevity, the sole unquestioned good of contemporary Western life (247).

"Christianity is about nothing other than getting ready to die.  It is a rigorous training for death, a kind of death in life that places little value on longevity (248)."

"As Marcus Aurelius writes, it is one of 'the noblest functions of reason to know whether it is time to walk out of the world or not.'  Unknowing and uncertain, the philosopher walks (xxiv)."

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