Category Archives: “God is a circle …”

Concerning the saying, “God is a circle [or sphere] whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere,” which appears in Collingwood, Pascal, and Alain de Lille

Pascal, Pensées, S 183–254

By the account of Martha Nussbaum, philosophy is one of two things:

  1. A form of inquiry pursued through conversation among equals.

  2. An activity of “a lonely thinker of profound thoughts.”

Nussbaum prefers the first, though having appeared in a film that promotes the second.

I watched and enjoyed the film, which is by Astra Taylor and is called Examined Life (2008). I first found it through a touching fragment, featuring a stroll in San Francisco by Judith Butler and Taylor’s sister Sunaura. Because they have a conversation at all, and on the theme that we all need one another’s help, the film becomes less subject to Nussbaum’s charge:

Portraying philosophers as authority figures is a baneful inversion of the entire Socratic process, which aimed to replace authority with reason.

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How to Learn about People

A chance encounter with a Medieval definition of God, used as the title of a sculpture, leads to an ancient plane tree and to more consideration of what can go wrong with public opinion polls.

Ancient plane tree of Bayır, Marmaris Peninsula, September 9, 2010

Ancient plane tree of Bayır, Marmaris Peninsula, September 9, 2010

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One & Many

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This essay – these notes for an essay, this draft of an essay – is inspired by Robert Pirsig’s first book. I have made sectional divisions where they seemed to occur naturally.

zen

While we who work at universities may be employed by the state, our true work is to serve not the state as such, but what may be called knowledge, or science, or reason. This is a theme of Pirsig, which I take up here.

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Interconnectedness

Note added January 13, 2019. This essay concerns a letter I once wrote about

  • teaching;

  • the infinitely large and small, as contemplated by Pascal in that one of the Pensées headed Disproportion de l’homme;

  • Zen Buddhism.

Since the ideas of Collingwood often dominate this blog, one may ask why they influence me. My old letter provides some evidence, since I wrote it before I had read anything by Collingwood but The Principles of Art.

The present essay has the first of this blog’s several mentions of the slogan

verba volant scripta manent,

which may not mean what we tend to think today.

The indicated pensée happens to allude to the definition of God as

une sphère infinie dont le centre est partout, la circonférence nulle part;

I have taken up this definition not here, but in later posts, apparently without recollection of its use by Pascal.


When do our thoughts progress, and when do they only confirm what we have always thought?

In December of 1987, I was between college and graduate school. I was living with my mother in Virginia, doing some tutoring at my old high school, waiting for inspiration about what to do next. Inspiration did come in the course of the following year, when I was working at an organic farm in West Virginia. I was going to apply to graduate schools in mathematics or philosophy (earlier I had considered also physics); then, in a dream, I understood that I had to do mathematics.

Meanwhile, among other things, I exchanged letters with college classmates. I am going to quote and examine a letter written by me whose precise date is 13 December 1987. I am able to transcribe my handwritten words, because I kept a photocopy of them. The photocopy sat in a folder in my mother’s house, in my old room in the attic, for more than twenty-six years. Now that I read again what I wrote, I find ideas such as I have found (and agreed with) more recently in Collingwood, especially in his early books Religion and Philosophy (1916) and Speculum Mentis (1924).

books

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