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قدیمی ۲۵ آبان ۱۳۹۰, ۱۱:۱۱ بعد از ظهر   #21 (لینک مستقیم)
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culture. In one sense, antique culture had survived the Dark Ages.”
“I see.”
“But let us not anticipate the course of events. We mast first talk a little about medieval
philosophy. I shall not speak from this pulpit any more. I’m coming down.”
Sophie’s eyes were heavy from too little sleep. When she saw the strange monk descending from
the pulpit of St. Mary’s Church, she felt as if she were dreaming.
Alberto walked toward the altar rail. He looked up at the altar with its ancient crucifix, then he
walked slowly toward Sophie. He sat down beside her on the bench of the pew.
It was a strange feeling, being so close to him. Under his cowl Sophie saw a pair of deep brown
eyes. They belonged to a middle-aged man with dark hair and a little pointed beard. Who are you, she
wondered. Why have you turned my life upside down?
“We shall become better acquainted by and by,” he said, as if he had read her thoughts.
As they sat there together, with the light that filtered into the church through the stained-glass
windows becoming sharper and sharper, Alberto Knox began to talk about medieval philosophy.
“The medieval philosophers took it almost for granted that Christianity was true,” he began. “The
question was whether we must simply believe the Christian revelation or whether we can approach the
Christian truths with the help of reason. What was the relationship between the Greek philosophers and
what the Bible said? Was there a contradiction between the Bible and reason, or were belief and
knowledge compatible? Almost all medieval philosophy centered on this one question.”
Sophie nodded impatiently. She had been through this in her religion class.
“We shall see how the two most prominent medieval philosophers dealt with this question, and we
might as well begin with St. Augustine, who lived from 354 to 430. In this one person’s life we can
observe the actual transition from late antiquity to the Early Middle Ages. Augustine was born in the
little town of Tagaste in North Africa. At the age of sixteen he went to Carthage to study. Later he
traveled to Rome and Milan, and lived the last years of his life in the town of Hippo, a few miles west of
Carthage. However, he was not a Christian all his life. Augustine examined several different religions
and philosophies before he became a Christian.”
“Could you give some examples?”
“For a time he was a Manichaean. The Manichaeans were a religious sect that was extremely
characteristic of late antiquity. Their doctrine was half religion and half philosophy, asserting that the
world consisted of a dualism of good and evil, light and darkness, spirit and matter. With his spirit,
mankind could rise above the world of matter and thus prepare for the salvation of his soul. But this
sharp division between good and evil gave the young Augustine no peace of mind. He was completely
preoccupied with what we like to call the ‘problem of evil.’ By this we mean the question of where evil
comes from. For a time he was influenced by Stoic philosophy, and according to the Stoics, there was no
sharp division between good and evil. However, his principal leanings were toward the other significant
philosophy of late antiquity, Neoplatonism. Here he came across the idea that all existence is divine in
nature.”
“So he became a Neoplatonic bishop?”
“Yes, you could say that. He became a Christian first, but the Christianity of St. Augustine is
largely influenced by Platonic ideas. And therefore, Sophie, therefore you have to understand that there
is no dramatic break with Greek philosophy the minute we enter the Christian Middle Ages. Much of
Greek philosophy was carried over to the new age through Fathers of the Church like St. Augustine.”
“Do you mean that St. Augustine was half Christian and half Neoplatonist?”
“He himself believed he was a hundred-percent Christian although he saw no real contradiction
between Christianity and the philosophy of Plato. For him, the similarity between Plato and the
Christian doctrine was so apparent that he thought Plato must have had knowledge of the Old
Testament. This, of course, is highly improbable. Let us rather say that it was St. Augustine who
‘christianized’ Plato.”
“So he didn’t turn his back on everything that had to do with philosophy when he started believing
in Christianity?”
“No, but he pointed out that there are limits to how far reason can get you in religious questions.
Christianity is a divine mystery that we can only perceive through faith. But if we believe in
Christianity, God will ‘illuminate’ the soul so that we experience a sort of supernatural knowledge of
God. St. Augustine had felt within himself that there was a limit to how far philosophy could go. Not
before he became a Christian did he find peace in his own soul. ‘Our heart is not quiet until it rests in
Thee,’ he writes.”
“I don’t quite understand how Plato’s ideas could go together with Christianity,” Sophie objected.
“What about the eternal ideas?”
“Well, St. Augustine certainly maintains that God created the world out of the void, and that was a
Biblical idea. The Greeks preferred the idea that the world had always existed. But St. Augustine
believed that before God created the world, the ‘ideas’ were in the Divine mind. So he located the
Platonic ideas in God and in that way preserved the Platonic view of eternal ideas.”
“That was smart.”
“But it indicates how not only St. Augustine but many of the other Church Fathers bent over
backward to bring Greek and Jewish thought together. In a sense they were of two cultures. Augustine
also inclined to Neoplatonism in his view of evil. He believed, like Plotinus, that evil is the ‘absence of
God.’ Evil has no independent existence, it is something that is not, for God’s creation is in fact only
good. Evil comes from mankind’s disobedience, Augustine believed. Or, in his own words, ‘The good
will is God’s work; the evil will is the falling away from God’s work.’ “
“Did he also believe that man has a divine soul?”
“Yes and no. St. Augustine maintained that there is an insurmountable barrier between God and
the world. In this he stands firmly on Biblical ground, rejecting the doctrine of Plotinus that everything
is one. But he nevertheless emphasizes that man is a spiritual being. He has a material body—which
belongs to the physical world which ‘moth and rust doth corrupt’—but he also has a soul which can
know God.”
“What happens to the soul when we die?”
“According to St. Augustine, the entire human race was lost after the Fall of Man. But God
nevertheless decided that certain people should be saved from perdition.”
“In that case, God could just as well have decided that everybody should be saved.”
“As far as that goes, St. Augustine denied that man has any right to criticize God, referring to
Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: ‘O Man, who art thou that replies! against God? Shall the thing formed
say to him that formed it; why hast thou made me thus? or Hath not the potter power over the clay, of
the same lump to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor?’ “
“So God sits up in his Heaven playing with people? And as soon as he is dissatisfied with one of
his creations, he just throws it away.”
“St. Augustine’s point was that no man deserves God’s redemption. And yet God has chosen some
to be saved from damnation, so for him there was nothing secret about who will be saved and who
damned. It is preordained. We are entirely at his mercy.”
“So in a way, he returned to the old belief in fate.”
“Perhaps. But St. Augustine did not renounce man’s responsibility for his own life. He taught that
we must live in awareness of being among the chosen. He did not deny that we have free will. But God
has ‘foreseen’ how we will live.”
“Isn’t that rather unfair?” asked Sophie. “Socrates said that we all had the same chances because
we all had the same common sense. But St. Augustine divides people into two groups. One group gets
saved and the other gets damned.”
“You are right in that St. Augustine’s theology is considerably removed from the humanism of
Athens. But St. Augustine wasn’t dividing humanity into two groups. He was merely expounding the
Biblical doctrine of salvation and damnation. He explained this in a learned work called the City of
God.”
“Tell me about that.”
“The expression ‘City of God,’ or ‘Kingdom of God,’ comes from the Bible and the teachings of Jesus. St. Augustine believed that all human history is a struggle between the ‘Kingdom of God’
and the ‘Kingdom of the World.’ The two ‘kingdoms’ are not political kingdoms distinct from each
other. They struggle for mastery inside every single person. Nevertheless, the Kingdom of God is more
or less clearly present in the Church, and the Kingdom of theWorld is present in the State—for
example, in the Roman Empire, which was in decline at the time of St. Augustine. This conception
became increasingly clear as Church and State fought for supremacy throughout the Middle Ages. There
is no salvation outside the Church,’ it was now said. St. Augustine’s ‘City of God’ eventually became
identical with the established Church. Not until the Reformation in the sixteenth century was there any
protest against the idea that people could only obtain salvation through the Church.”
“It was about time!”
“We can also observe that St. Augustine was the first philosopher we have come across to draw
history into his philosophy. The struggle between good and evil was by no means new. What was new
was that for Augustine the struggle was played out in history. There is not much of Plato in this aspect
of St. Augustine’s work. He was more influenced by the linear view of history as we meet it in the Old
Testament: the idea that God needs all of history in order to realize his Kingdom of God. History is
necessary for the enlightenment of man and the destruction of evil. Or, as St. Augustine put it, ‘Divine
foresight directs the history of mankind from Adam to the end of time as if it were the story of one man
who gradually develops from childhood to old age.’ “
Sophie looked at her watch. “It’s ten o’clock,” she said. “I’ll have to go soon.”
“But first I must tell you about the other great medieval philosopher. Shall we sit outside?”
Alberto stood up. He placed the palms of his hands together and began to stride down the aisle. He
looked as if he was praying or meditating deeply on some spiritual truth. Sophie followed him; she felt
she had no choice.
The sun had not yet broken through the morning clouds. Alberto seated himself on a bench outside
the church. Sophie wondered what people would think if anyone came by. Sitting on a church bench at
ten in the morning was odd in itself, and sitting with a medieval monk wouldn’t make things look any
better.
“It is eight o’clock,” he began. “About four hundred years have elapsed since St. Augustine, and
now school starts. From now until ten o’clock, convent schools will have the monopoly on education.
Between ten and eleven o’clock the first cathedral schools will be founded, followed at noon by the first
universities. The great Gothic cathedrals will be built at the same time. This church, too, dates from the
1200s—or what we call the High Gothic period. In this town they couldn’t afford a large cathedral.”
“They didn’t need one,” Sophie said. “I hate empty churches.”
“Ah, but the great cathedrals were not built only for large congregations. They were built to the
glory of God and were in themselves a kind of religious celebration. However, something else happened
during this period which has special significance for philosophers like us.”
Alberto continued: “The influence of the Arabs of Spain began to make itself felt. Throughout the
Middle Ages, the Arabs had kept the Aristotelian tradition alive, and from the end of the twelfth century,
Arab scholars began to arrive in Northern Italy at the invitation of the nobles. Many of Aristotle’s
writings thus became known and were translated from Greek and Arabic into Latin. This created a new
interest in the natural sciences and infused new life into the question of the Christian revelation’s
relationship to Greek philosophy. Aristotle could obviously no longer be ignored in matters of science,
but when should one attend to Aristotle the philosopher, and when should one stick to the Bible? Do you
see?”
Sophie nodded, and the monk went on:
“The greatest and most significant philosopher of this period was St. Thomas Aquinas, who lived
from 1225 to 1274. He came from the little town of Aquino, between Rome and Naples, but he also
worked as a teacher at the University of Paris. I call him a philosopher but he was just as much a
theologian. There was no great difference between philosophy and theology at that time. Briefly, we can
say that Aquinas christianized Aristotle in the same way that St. Augustine christianized Plato in early
medieval times.”
“Wasn’t it rather an odd thing to do, christianizing philosophers who had lived several hundred
years before Christ?”
“You could say so. But by ‘christianizing’ these two great Greek philosophers, we only mean that
they were interpreted and explained in such a way that they were no longer considered a threat to
Christian dogma. Aquinas was among those who tried to make Aristotle’s philosophy compatible with
Christianity. We say that he created the great synthesis between faith and knowledge. He did this by
entering the philosophy of Aristotle and taking him at his word.”
“I’m sorry, but I had hardly any sleep last night. I’m afraid you’ll have to explain it more clearly.”
“Aquinas believed that there need be no conflict between what philosophy or reason teaches us
and what the Christian Revelation or faith teaches us. Christendom and philosophy often say the same
thing. So we can frequently reason ourselves to the same truths that we can read in the Bible.”
“How come? Can reason tell us that God created the world in six days or that Jesus was the Son of
God?”
“No, those so-called verities of faith are only accessible through belief and the Christian
Revelation. But Aquinas believed in the existence of a number of ‘natural theological truths.’ By that he
meant truths that could be reached both through Christian faith and through our innate or natural reason.
For example, the truth that there is a God. Aquinas believed that there are two paths to God. One path
goes through faith and the Christian Revelation, and the other goes through reason and the senses. Of
these two, the path of faith and revelation is certainly the surest, because it is easy to lose one’s way by
trusting to reason alone. But Aquinas’s point was that there need not be any conflict between a
philosopher like Aristotle and the Christian doctrine.”
“So we can take our choice between believing Aristotle and believing the Bible?”
“Not at all. Aristotle goes only part of the way because he didn’t know of the Christian revelation.
But going only part of the way is not the same as going the wrong way. For example, it is not wrong to
say that Athens is in Europe. But neither is it particularly precise. If a book only tells you that Athens is
a city in Europe, it would be wise to look it up in a geography book as well. There you would find the
whole truth that Athens is the capital of Greece, a small country in southeastern Europe. If you are lucky
you might be told a little about the Acropolis as well. Not to mention Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.”
“But the first bit of information about Athens was true.”
“Exactly! Aquinas wanted to prove that there is only one truth. So when Aristotle shows us
something our reason tells us is true, it is not in conflict with Christian teaching. We can arrive
successfully at one aspect of the truth with the aid of reason and the evidence of our senses. For
example, the kind of truths Aristotle refers to when he describes the plant and the animal kingdom.
Another aspect of the truth is revealed to us by God through the Bible. But the two aspects of the truth
overlap at significant points. There are many questions about which the Bible and reason tell us exactly
the same thing.”
“Like there being a God?”
“Exactly. Aristotle’s philosophy also presumed the existence of a God—or a formal cause—which
sets all natural processes going. But he gives no further description of God. For this we must rely solely
on the Bible and the teachings of Jesus.”
“Is it so absolutely certain that there is a God?”
“It can be disputed, obviously. But even in our day most people will agree that human reason is
certainly not capable of disproving the existence of God. Aquinas went further. He believed that he
could prove God’s existence on the basis of Aristotle’s philosophy.”
“Not bad!”
“With our reason we can recognize that everything around us must have a ‘formal cause,’ he
believed. God has revealed himself to mankind both through the Bible and through reason. There is thus
both a ‘theology of faith’ and a ‘natural theology.’ The same is true of the moral aspect. The Bible
teaches us how God wants us to live. But God has also given us a conscience which enables us to
distinguish between right and wrong on a ‘natural’ basis. There are thus also ‘two paths’ to a moral life.
We know that it is wrong to harm people even if we haven’t read in the Bible that we must ‘do unto oth- ers as you would have them do unto you.’ Here, too, the surest guide is to follow the Bible’s
commandment.”
“I think I understand,” said Sophie now. “It’s almost like how we know there’s a thunderstorm, by
seeing the lightning and by hearing the thunder.”
“That’s right! We can hear the thunder even if we are blind, and we can see the lightning even if
we are deaf. It’s best if we can both see and hear, of course. But there is no contradiction between what
we see and what we hear. On the contrary—the two impressions reinforce each other.”
“I see.”
“Let me add another picture. If you read a novel— John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, for
example ...”
“I’ve read that, actually.”
“Don’t you feel you know something about the author just by reading his book?”
“I realize there is a person who wrote it.”
“Is that all you know about him?”
“He seems to care about outsiders.”
“When you read this book—which is Steinbeck’s creation—you get to know something about
Steinbeck’s nature as well. But you cannot expect to get any personal information about the author.
Could you tell from reading Of Mice and Men how old the author was when he wrote it, where he lived,
or how many children he had?”
“Of course not.”
“But you can find this information in a biography of John Steinbeck. Only in a biography—or an
autobiography—can you get better acquainted with Steinbeck, the person.”
“That’s true.”
“That’s more or less how it is with God’s Creation and the Bible. We can recognize that there is a
God just by walking around in the natural world. We can easily see that He loves flowers and animals,
otherwise He would not have made them. But information about God, the person, is only found in the
Bible—or in God’s ‘autobiography,’ if you like.”
“You’re good at finding examples.”
“Mmmm...”
For the first time Alberto just sat there thinking— without answering.
“Does all this have anything to do with Hilde?” Sophie could not help asking.
“We don’t know whether there is a ‘Hilde’ at all.”
“But we know someone is planting evidence of her all over the place. Postcards, a silk scarf, a
green wallet, a stocking ...”
Alberto nodded. “And it seems as if it is Hilde’s father who is deciding how many clues he will
plant,” he said. “For now, all we know is that someone is sending us a lot of postcards. I wish he would
write something about himself too. But we shall return to that later.”
“It’s a quarter to eleven. I’ll have to get home before the end of the Middle Ages.”
“I shall just conclude with a few words about how Aquinas adopted Aristotle’s philosophy in all
the areas where it did not collide with the Church’s theology. These included his logic, his theory of
knowledge, and not least his natural philosophy. Do you recall, for example, how Aristotle described the
progressive scale of life from plants and animals to humans?”
Sophie nodded.
“Aristotle believed that this scale indicated a God that constituted a sort of maximum of existence.
This scheme of things was not difficult to align with Christian theology. According to Aquinas, there
was a progressive degree of existence from plants and animals to man, from man to angels, and from
angels to God. Man, like animals, has a body and sensory organs, but man also has intelligence which
enables him to reason things out.
Angels have no such body with sensory organs, which is why they have spontaneous and
immediate intelligence. They have no need to ‘ponder,’ like humans; they have no need to reason out
conclusions. They know everything that man can know without having to learn it step by step like us.



من آدم نرفتن ام، آدم دوست موندن، یا اصلا آدم دیر رفتن ام
خیلی دیر...
اما وقتی برم، دیگه آدم برگشتن نیستم. آدم مثل قبل شدن نیستم. باور کن!!


anna gavalda
pegah.a آنلاین نیست.  
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قدیمی ۲۵ آبان ۱۳۹۰, ۱۱:۱۳ بعد از ظهر   #22 (لینک مستقیم)
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And since angels have no body, they can never die. They are not everlasting like God, because
they were once created by God. But they have no body that they must one day depart from, and so they
will never die.”
“That sounds lovely!”
“But up above the angels, God rules, Sophie. He can see and know everything in one single
coherent vision.”
“So he can see us now.”
“Yes, perhaps he can. But not ‘now.’ For God, time does not exist as it does for us. Our ‘now’ is
not God’s ‘now.’ Because many weeks pass for us, they do not necessarily pass for God.”
“That’s creepy!” Sophie exclaimed. She put her hand over her mouth. Alberto looked down at her,
and Sophie continued: “I got another card from Hilde’s father yesterday. He wrote something like—
even if it takes a week or two for Sophie, that doesn’t have to mean it will be that long for us. That’s
almost the same as what you said about God!”
Sophie could see a sudden frown flash across Alberto’s face beneath the brown cowl.
“He ought to be ashamed of himself!”
Sophie didn’t quite understand what Alberto meant. He went on: “Unfortunately, Aquinas also
adopted Aristotle’s view of women. You may perhaps recall that Aristotle thought a woman was more
or less an incomplete man. He also thought that children only inherit the father’s characteristics, since a
woman was passive and receptive while the man was active and creative. According to Aquinas, these
views harmonized with the message of the Bible—which, for example, tells us that woman was made
out of Adam’s rib.”
“Nonsense!”
“It’s interesting to note that the eggs of mammals were not discovered until 1827. It was therefore
perhaps not so surprising that people thought it was the man who was the creative and lifegiving force in
reproduction. We can moreover note that, according to Aquinas, it is only as nature-being that woman is
inferior to man. Woman’s soul is equal to man’s soul. In Heaven there is complete equality of the sexes
because all physical gender differences cease to exist.”
“That’s cold comfort. Weren’t there any women philosophers in the Middle Ages?”
“The life of the church in the Middle Ages was heavily dominated by men. But that did not mean
that there were no women thinkers. One of them was Hildegard of Bingen...”
Sophie’s eyes widened:
“Does she have anything to do with Hilde?”
“What a question! Hildegard lived as a nun in the Rhine Valley from 1098 to 1179. In spite of
being a woman, she worked as preacher, author, physician, botanist, and naturalist. She is an example of
the fact that women were often more practical, more scientific even, in the Middle Ages.”
“But what about Hilde?”
“It was an ancient Christian and Jewish belief that God was not only a man. He also had a female
side, or ‘mother nature.’ Women, too, are created in God’s likeness. In Greek, this female side of God is
called Sophia. ‘Sophia’ or ‘Sophie’ means wisdom.”
Sophie shook her head resignedly. Why had nobody ever told her that? And why had she never
asked?
Alberto continued: “Sophia, or God’s mother nature, had a certain significance both for Jews and
in the Greek Orthodox Church throughout the Middle Ages. In the west she was forgotten. But along
comes Hildegard. Sophia appeared to her in a vision, dressed in a golden tunic adorned with costly
jewels ...”
Sophie stood up. Sophia had revealed herself to Hildegard in a vision ...
“Maybe I will appear to Hilde.”
She sat down again. For the third time Alberto laid his hand on her shoulder.
“That is something we must look into. But now it is past eleven o’clock. You must go home, and
we are approaching a new era. I shall summon you to a meeting on the Renaissance. Hermes will come
get you in the garden.” With that the strange monk rose and began to walk toward the church. Sophie stayed where she
was, thinking about Hildegard and Sophia, Hilde and Sophie. Suddenly she jumped up and ran after the
monk-robed philosopher, calling:
“Was there also an Alberto in the Middle Ages?”
Alberto slowed his pace somewhat, turned his head slightly and said, “Aquinas had a famous
philosophy teacher called Albert the Great...”
With that he bowed his head and disappeared through the door of St. Mary’s Church.
Sophie was not satisfied with his answer. She followed him into the church. But now it was
completely empty. Did he go through the floor?
Just as she was leaving the church she noticed a picture of the Madonna. She went up to it and
studied it closely. Suddenly she discovered a little drop of water under one of the Madonna’s eyes. Was
it a tear?
Sophie rushed out of the church and hurried back to Joanna’s.
The Renaissance
…O divine lineage in mortal guise…
It was just twelve when Sophie reached Joanna’s front gate, out of breath with running. Joanna
was standing in the front yard outside her family’s yellow house.
“You’ve been gone for five hours!” Joanna said sharply.
Sophie shook her head.
“No, I’ve been gone for more than a thousand years.”
“Where on earth have you been? You’re crazy. Your mom called half an hour ago.”
“What did you tell her?”
“I said you were at the drugstore. She said would you call her when you got back. But you should
have seen my mom and dad when they came in with hot chocolate and rolls at ten this morning ... and
your bed was empty.”
“What did you say to them?”
“It was really embarrassing. I told them you went home because we got mad at each other.”
“So we’d better hurry up and be friends again. And we have to make sure your parents don’t talk
to my mom for a few days. Do you think we can do that?”
Joanna shrugged. Just then her father came around the corner with a wheelbarrow. He had a pair
of coveralls on and was busy clearing up last year’s leaves and twigs.
“Aha—so you’re friends again, I see. Well, there’s not so much as a single leaf left on the
basement steps now.”
“Fine,” said Sophie. “So perhaps we can have our hot chocolate there instead of in bed.”
Joanna’s dad gave a forced laugh, but Joanna gasped. Verbal exchanges had always been more
robust in Sophie’s family than at the more well-to-do home of Mr. Ingebrigtsen, the financial adviser,
and his wife.
“I’m sorry, Joanna, but I felt I ought to take part in this cover-up operation as well.”
“Are you going to tell me about it?”
“Sure, if you walk home with me. Because it’s not for the ears of financial advisers or overgrown
Barbie dolls.”
“That’s a rotten thing to say! I suppose you think a rocky marriage that drives one of the partners
away to sea is better?”
“Probably not. But I hardly slept last night. And another thing, I’ve begun to wonder whether
Hilde can see everything we do.”
They began to walk toward Clover Close.
“You mean she might have second sight?”
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
Joanna was clearly not enthusiastic about all this secrecy.
“But that doesn’t explain why her father sent a lot of crazy postcards to an empty cabin in the
woods.”
“I admit that is a weak spot.”
“Do you want to tell me where you have been?”
So she did. Sophie told her everything, about the mysterious philosophy course as well. She made
Joanna swear to keep everything secret.
They walked for a long time without speaking. As they approached Clover Close, Joanna said, “I
don’t like it.”
She stopped at Sophie’s gate and turned to go home again.
“Nobody asked you to like it. But philosophy is not a harmless party game. It’s about who we are
and where we come from. Do you think we learn enough about that at school?”
“Nobody can answer questions like that anyway.”
“Yes, but we don’t even learn to ask them!”
Lunch was on the table when Sophie walked into the kitchen. Nothing was said about her not
having called from Joanna’s.
After lunch Sophie announced that she was going to take a nap. She admitted she had hardly slept
at Joanna’s house, which was not at all unusual at a sleepover.
Before getting into bed she stood in front of the big brass mirror which now hung on her wall. At
first she only saw her own white and exhausted face. But then—behind her own face, the faintest
suggestion of another face seemed to appear. Sophie took one or two deep breaths. It was no good
starting to imagine things.
She studied the sharp contours of her own pale face framed by that impossible hair which defied
any style but nature’s own. But beyond that face was the apparition of another girl. Suddenly the other
girl began to wink frantically with both eyes, as if to signal that she was really in there on the other side.
The apparition lasted only a few seconds. Then she was gone.
Sophie sat down on the edge of the bed. She had absolutely no doubt that it was Hilde she had
seen in the mirror. She had caught a glimpse of her picture on a school I.D. in the major’s cabin. It must
have been the same girl she had seen in the mirror.
Wasn’t it odd, how she always experienced mysterious things like this when she was dead tired. It
meant that afterward she always had to ask herself whether it really had happened.
Sophie laid her clothes on the chair and crawled into bed. She fell asleep at once and had a
strangely vivid dream.
She dreamed she was standing in a large garden that sloped down to a red boathouse. On the dock
behind it sat a young fair-haired girl gazing out over the water. Sophie walked down and sat beside her.
But the girl seemed not to notice her. Sophie introduced herself. “I’m Sophie,” she said. But the other
girl could apparently neither see nor hear her. Suddenly Sophie heard a voice calling, “Hilde!” At once
the girl jumped up from where she was sitting and ran as fast as she could up to the house. She couldn’t
have been deaf or blind after all. A middle-aged man came striding from the house toward her. He was
wearing a khaki uniform and a blue beret. The girl threw her arms around his neck and he swung her
around a few times. Sophie noticed a little gold crucifix on a chain lying on the dock where the girl had
been sitting. She picked it up and held it in her hand. Then she woke up.
Sophie looked at the clock. She had been asleep for two hours. She sat up in bed, thinking about
the strange dream. It was so real that she felt as if she had actually lived the experience. She was equally
sure that the house and the dock really existed somewhere. Surely it resembled the picture she had seen
hanging in the major’s cabin? Anyway, there was no doubt at all that the girl in her dream was Hilde
Moller Knag and that the man was her father, home from Lebanon. In her dream he had looked a lot like
Alberto Knox ...
As Sophie stood up and began to tidy her bed, she found a gold crucifix on a chain under her
pillow. On the back of the crucifix there were three letters engraved: HMK.
This was not the first time Sophie had dreamed she found a treasure. But this was definitely the first time she had brought it back from the dream.
“Damn!” she said aloud.
She was so mad that she opened the closet door and hurled the delicate crucifix up onto the top
shelf with the silk scarf, the white stocking, and the postcards from Lebanon.
The next morning Sophie woke up to a big breakfast of hot rolls, orange juice, eggs, and vegetable
salad. It was not often that her mother was up before Sophie on a Sunday morning. When she was, she
liked to fix a solid meal for Sophie.
While they were eating, Mom said, “There’s a strange dog in the garden. It’s been sniffing round
the old hedge all morning. I can’t imagine what it’s doing here, can you?”
“Yes!” Sophie burst out, and at once regretted it.
“Has it been here before?”
Sophie had already left the table and gone into the living room to look out of the window facing
the large garden. It was just as she thought.
Hermes was lying in front of the secret entrance to her den.
What should she say? She had no time to think of anything before her mother came and stood
beside her.
“Did you say it had been here before?” she asked.
“I expect it buried a bone there and now it’s come to fetch its treasure. Dogs have memories
too ...”
“Maybe you’re right, Sophie. You’re the animal psychologist in the family.”
Sophie thought feverishly.
“I’ll take it home,” she said.
“You know where it lives, then?”
Sophie shrugged her shoulders.
“It’s probably got an address on its collar.”
A couple of minutes later Sophie was on her way down the garden. When Hermes caught sight of
her he came lolloping toward her, wagging his tail and jumping up to her.
“Good boy, Hermes!” said Sophie.
She knew her mother was watching from the window. She prayed he would not go through the
hedge. But the dog dashed toward the gravel path in front of the house, streaked across the front yard,
and jumped up to the gate.
When they had shut the gate behind them, Hermes continued to run a few yards in front of Sophie.
It was a long way. Sophie and Hermes were not the only ones out for a Sunday walk. Whole families
were setting off for the day. Sophie felt a pang of envy.
From time to time Hermes would run off and sniff at another dog or at something interesting by a
garden hedge, but as soon as Sophie called “Here, boy!” he would come back to her at once.
They crossed an old pasture, a large playing field, and a playground, and emerged into an area
with more traffic. They continued toward the town center along a broad street with cobbled stones and
streetcars. Hermes led the way across the town square and up Church Street. They came out into the Old
Town, with its massive staid town houses from the turn of the century. It was almost half past one.
Now they were on the other side of town. Sophie had not been there very often. Once when she
was little, she remembered, she had been taken to visit an old aunt in one of these streets.
Eventually they reached a little square between several old houses. It was called New Square,
although it all looked very old. But then the whole town was old; it had been founded way back in the
Middle Ages.
Hermes walked toward No. 14, where he stood still and waited for Sophie to open the door. Her
heart began to beat faster.
Inside the front door there were a number of green mailboxes attached to a panel. Sophie noticed a
postcard hanging from one of the mailboxes in the top row. It had a stamped message from the mailman
across it to the effect that the addressee was unknown.
The addressee was Hilde Moller Knag, 14 New Square. It was postmarked June 15. That was not for two weeks, but the mailman had obviously not noticed that.
Sophie took the card down and read it:
Dear Hilde, Now Sophie is coming to the philosopher’s house. She will soon be fifteen, but you
were fifteen yesterday. Or is it today, Hilde? If it is today, it must be late, then. But our watches do not
always agree. One generation ages while another generation is brought forth. In the meantime history
takes its course. Have you ever thought that the history of Europe is like a human life? Antiquity is like
the childhood of Europe. Then come the interminable Middle Ages—Europe’s schoolday. But at last
comes the Renaissance; the long school-day is over. Europe comes of age in a burst of exuberance and a
thirst for life. We could say that the Renaissance is Europe’s fifteenth birthday! It is mid-June, my child,
and it is wonderful to be alive!
P.S. Sorry to hear you lost your gold crucifix. You must learn to take better care of your things.
Love, Dad—who is just around the corner.
Hermes was already on his way up the stairs. Sophie took the postcard with her and followed. She
had to run to keep up with him; he was wagging his tail delightedly. They passed the second, third, and
fourth stories. From then on there was only an attic staircase. Were they going up to the roof? Hermes
clambered on up the stairs and stopped outside a narrow door, which he scratched at with his paw.
Sophie heard footsteps approaching from inside. The door opened, and there stood Alberto Knox.
He had changed his clothes and was now wearing another costume. It consisted of white hose, red kneebreeches,
and a yellow jacket with padded shoulders. He reminded Sophie of a joker in a deck of cards.
If she was not much mistaken, this was a typical Renaissance costume.
“What a clown!” Sophie exclaimed, giving him a little push so that she could go inside the
apartment.
Once again she had taken out her fear and shyness on the unfortunate philosophy teacher. Sophie’s
thoughts were in a turmoil because of the postcard she had found down in the hallway.
“Be calm, my child,” said Alberto, closing the door behind her.
“And here’s the mail,” she said, handing him the postcard as if she held him responsible for it.
Alberto read it and shook his head.
“He gets more and more audacious. I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t using us as a kind of
birthday diversion for his daughter.”
With that he tore the postcard into small pieces and threw them into the wastepaper basket.
“It said that Hilde has lost her crucifix,” said Sophie.
“So I read.”
“And I found it, the same one, under my pillow at home. Can you understand how it got there?”
Alberto looked gravely into her eyes.
“It may seem alluring. But it’s just a cheap trick that costs him no effort whatsoever. Let us rather
concentrate on the big white rabbit that is pulled out of the universe’s top hat.”
They went into the living room. It was one of the most extraordinary rooms Sophie had ever seen.
Alberto lived in a spacious attic apartment with sloping walls. A sharp light directly from the sky
flooded the room from a skylight set into one of the walls. There was also another window facing the
town. Through this window Sophie could look over all the roofs in the Old Town.
But what amazed Sophie most was all the stuff the room was filled with—furniture and objects
from various historical periods. There was a sofa from the thirties, an old desk from the beginning of the
century, and a chair that had to be hundreds of years old. But it wasn’t just the furniture. Old objects,
either useful or decorative, were jumbled together on shelves and cupboards. There were old clocks and
vases, mortars and retorts, knives and dolls, quill pens and bookends, octants and sextants, compasses
and barometers. One entire wall was covered with books, but not the sort of books found in most
bookstores. The book collection itself was a cross section of the production of many hundreds of years.
On the other walls hung drawings and paintings, some from recent decades, but most of them also very
old. There were a lot of old charts and maps on the walls too, and as far as Norway was concerned, they
were not very accurate.
Sophie stood for several minutes without speaking and took everything in.
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قدیمی ۲۵ آبان ۱۳۹۰, ۱۱:۱۵ بعد از ظهر   #23 (لینک مستقیم)
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“What a lot of old junk you’ve collected,” she said.
“Now then! Just think of how many centuries of history I have preserved in this room. I wouldn’t
exactly call it junk.”
“Do you manage an antique shop or something?”
Alberto looked almost pained.
“We can’t all let ourselves be washed away by the tide of history, Sophie. Some of us must tarry
in order to gather up what has been left along the river banks.”
“What an odd thing to say.”
“Yes, but none the less true, child. We do not live in our own time alone; we carry our history
within us. Don’t forget that everything you see in this room was once brand new. That old sixteenthcentury
wooden doll might have been made for a five-year-old girl’s birthday. By her old grandfather,
maybe... then she became a teenager, then an adult, and then she married. Maybe she had a daughter of
her own and gave the doll to her. She grew old, and one day she died. Although she had lived for a very
long time, one day she was dead and gone. And she will never return. Actually she was only here for a
short visit. But her doll—well, there it is on the shelf.”
“Everything sounds so sad and solemn when you talk like that.”
“Life is both sad and solemn. We are let into a wonderful world, we meet one another here, greet
each other—and wander together for a brief moment. Then we lose each other and disappear as
suddenly and unreasonably as we arrived.”
“May I ask you something?”
“We’re not playing hide-and-seek any more.”
“Why did you move into the major’s cabin?”
“So that we would not be so far from each other, when we were only talking by letter. I knew the
old cabin would be empty.”
“So you just moved in?”
“That’s right. I moved in.”
“Then maybe you can also explain how Hilde’s father knew you were there.”
“If I am right, he knows practically everything.”
“But I still can’t understand at all how you get a mailman to deliver mail in the middle of the
woods!”
Alberto smiled archly.
“Even things like that are a pure bagatelle for Hilde’s father. Cheap hocus-pocus, simple sleight of
hand. We are living under what is possibly the world’s closest surveillance.”
Sophie could feel herself getting angry.
“If I ever meet him, I’ll scratch his eyes out!”
Alberto walked over and sat down on the sofa. Sophie followed and sank into a deep armchair.
“Only philosophy can bring us closer to Hilde’s father,” Alberto said at last. “Today I shall tell
you about the Renaissance.”
“Shoot.”
“Not very long after St. Thomas Aquinas, cracks began to appear in the unifying culture of
Christianity. Philosophy and science broke away more and more from the theology of the Church, thus
enabling religious life to attain a freer relationship to reasoning. More people now emphasized that we
cannot reach God through rationalism because God is in all ways unknowable. The important thing for a
man was not to understand the divine mystery but to submit to God’s will.
“As religion and science could now relate more freely to each other, the way was open both to
new scientific methods and a new religious fervor. Thus the basis was created for two powerful
upheavals in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, namely, the Renaissance and the Reformation.”
“Can we take them one at a time?”
“By the Renaissance we mean the rich cultural development that began in the late fourteenth
century. It started in Northern Italy and spread rapidly northward during the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries.” “Didn’t you tell me that the word ‘renaissance’ meant rebirth?”
“I did indeed, and that which was to be reborn was the art and culture of antiquity. We also speak
of Renaissance humanism, since now, after the long Dark Ages in which every aspect of life was seen
through divine light, everything once again revolved around man. ‘Go to the source’ was the motto, and
that meant the humanism of antiquity first and foremost.
“It almost became a popular pastime to dig up ancient sculptures and scrolls, just as it became
fashionable to learn Greek. The study of Greek humanism also had a pedagogical aim. Reading
humanistic subjects provided a ‘classical education’ and developed what may be called human qualities.
‘Horses are born,’ it was said, ‘but human beings are not born—they are formed.’ “
“Do we have to be educated to be human beings?”
“Yes, that was the thought. But before we take a closer look at the ideas of Renaissance
humanism, we must say a little about the political and cultural background of the Renaissance.”
Alberto rose from the sofa and began to wander about the room. After a while he paused and
pointed to an antique instrument on one of the shelves.
“What is that?” he asked.
“It looks like an old compass.”
“Quite right.”
He then pointed to an ancient firearm hanging on the wall above the sofa.
“And that?”
“An old-fashioned rifle.”
“Exactly—and this?”
Alberto pulled a large book off one of the bookshelves.
“It’s an old book.”
“To be absolutely precise, it is an incunabulum.”
“An incunabulum?”
“Actually, it means ‘cradle.’ The word is used about books printed in the cradle days of printing.
That is, before 1500.”
“Is it really that old?”
“That old, yes. And these three discoveries—the compass, firearms, and the printing press—were
essential preconditions for this new period we call the Renaissance.”
“You’ll have to explain that a bit more clearly.”
“The compass made it easier to navigate. In other words, it was the basis for the great voyages of
discovery. So were firearms in a way. The new weapons gave the Europeans military superiority over
American and Asiatic cultures, although firearms were also an important factor in Europe. Printing
played an important part in spreading the Renaissance humanists’ new ideas. And the art of printing
was, not least, one of the factors that forced the Church to relinquish its former position as sole
disseminator of knowledge. New inventions and instruments began to follow thick and fast. One
important instrument, for example, was the telescope, which resulted in a completely new basis for
astronomy.”
“And finally came rockets and space probes.”
“Now you’re going too fast. But you could say that a process started in the Renaissance finally
brought people to the moon. Or for that matter to Hiroshima and Chernobyl. However, it all began with
changes on the cultural and economic front. An important condition was the transition from a
subsistence economy to a monetary economy. Toward the end of the Middle Ages, cities had developed,
with effective trades and a lively commerce of new goods, a monetary economy and banking. A middle
class arose which developed a certain freedom with regard to the basic conditions of life. Necessities
became something that could be bought for money. This state of affairs rewarded people’s diligence,
imagination, and ingenuity. New demands were made on the individual.”
“It’s a bit like the way Greek cities developed two thousand years earlier.”
“Not altogether untrue. I told you how Greek philosophy broke away from the mythological world
picture that was linked to peasant culture. In the same way, the Renaissance middle class began to break away from the feudal lords and the power of the church. As this was happening, Greek culture was
being rediscovered through a closer contact with the Arabs in Spain and the Byzantine culture in the
east.”
“The three diverging streams from antiquity joined into one great river.”
“You are an attentive pupil. That gives you some background on the Renaissance. I shall now tell
you about the new ideas.”
“Okay, but I’ll have to go home and eat.”
Alberto sat down on the sofa again. He looked at Sophie.
“Above all else, the Renaissance resulted in a new view of mankind. The humanism of the
Renaissance brought a new belief in man and his worth, in striking contrast to the biased medieval
emphasis on the sinful nature of man. Man was now considered infinitely great and valuable. One of the
central figures of the Renaissance was Marsilio Ficino, who exclaimed: ‘Know thyself, O divine lineage
in mortal guise!’ Another central figure, Pica della Mirandola, wrote the Oration on the Dignity of Man,
something that would have been unthinkable in the Middle Ages.
“Throughout the whole medieval period, the point of departure had always been God. The
humanists of the Renaissance took as their point of departure man himself.”
“But so did the Greek philosophers.”
“That is precisely why we speak of a ‘rebirth’ of antiquity’s humanism. But Renaissance
humanism was to an even greater extent characterized by individualism. We are not only human beings,
we are unique individuals. This idea could then lead to an almost unrestrained worship of genius. The
ideal became what we call the Renaissance man, a man of universal genius embracing all aspects of life,
art, and science. The new view of man also manifested itself in an interest in the human anatomy. As in
ancient times, people once again began to dissect the dead to discover how the body was constructed. It
was imperative both for medical science and for art. Once again it became usual for works of art to
depict the nude. High time, after a thousand years of prudery. Man was bold enough to be himself again.
There was no longer anything to be ashamed of.”
“It sounds intoxicating,” said Sophie, leaning her arms on the little table that stood between her
and the philosopher.
“Undeniably. The new view of mankind led to a whole new outlook. Man did not exist purely for
God’s sake. Man could therefore delight in life here and now. And with this new freedom to develop,
the possibilities were limitless. The aim was now to exceed all boundaries. This was also a new idea,
seen from the Greek humanistic point of view; the humanists of antiquity had emphasized the
importance of tranquility, moderation, and restraint.”
“And the Renaissance humanists lost their restraint?”
“They were certainly not especially moderate. They behaved as if the whole world had been
reawakened.
They became intensely conscious of their epoch, which is what led them to introduce the term
‘Middle Ages’ to cover the centuries between antiquity and their own time. There was an unrivaled
development in all spheres of life. Art and architecture, literature, music, philosophy, and science
flourished as never before. I will mention one concrete example. We have spoken of Ancient Rome,
which gloried in titles such as the ‘city of cities’ and the ‘hub of the universe.’ During the Middle Ages
the city declined, and by 1417 the old metropolis had only 17,000 inhabitants.”
“Not much more than Lillesand, where Hilde lives.”
“The Renaissance humanists saw it as their cultural duty to restore Rome: first and foremost, to
begin the construction of the great St. Peter’s Church over the grave of Peter the Apostle. And St.
Peter’s Church can boast neither of moderation nor restraint. Many great artists of the Renaissance took
part in this building project, the greatest in the world. It began in 1506 and lasted for a hundred and
twenty years, and it took another fifty before the huge St. Peter’s Square was completed.”
“It must be a gigantic church!”
“It is over 200 meters long and 130 meters high, and it covers an area of more than 16,000 square
meters. But enough about the boldness of Renaissance man. It was also significant that the Renaissance brought with it a new view of nature. The fact that man felt at home in the world and did not
consider life solely as a preparation for the hereafter, created a whole new approach to the physical
world. Nature was now regarded as a positive thing. Many held the view that God was also present in
his creation. If he is indeed infinite, he must be present in everything. This idea is called pantheism. The
medieval philosophers had insisted that there is an insurmountable barrier between God and the
Creation. It could now be said that nature is divine—and even that it is ‘God’s blossoming.’ Ideas of this
kind were not always looked kindly on by the church. The fate of Gior-dano Bruno was a dramatic
example of this. Not only did he claim that God was present in nature, he also believed that the universe
was infinite in scope. He was punished very severely for his ideas.”
“How?”
“He was burned at the stake in Rome’s Flower Market in the year 1600.”
“How horrible ... and stupid. And you call that humanism?”
“No, not at all. Bruno was the humanist, not his executioners. During the Renaissance, what we
call anti-humanism flourished as well. By this I mean the authoritarian power of State and Church.
During the Renaissance there was a tremendous thirst for trying witches, burning heretics, magic and
superstition, bloody religious wars—and not least, the brutal conquest of America. But humanism has
always had a shadow side. No epoch is either purely good or purely evil. Good and evil are twin threads
that run through the history of mankind. And often they intertwine. This is not least true of our next key
phrase, a new scientific method, another Renaissance innovation which I will tell you about.”
“Was that when they built the first factories?”
“No, not yet. But a precondition for all the technical development that took place after the
Renaissance was the new scientific method. By that I mean the completely new approach to what
science was. The technical fruits of this method only became apparent later on.”
“What was this new method?”
“Mainly it was a process of investigating nature with our own senses. Since the fourteenth century
there had been an increasing number of thinkers who warned against blind faith in old authority, be it
religious doctrine or the natural philosophy of Aristotle. There were also warnings against the belief that
problems can be solved purely by thinking. An exaggerated belief in the importance of reason had been
valid all through the Middle Ages. Now it was said that every investigation of natural phenomena must
be based on observation, experience, and experiment. We call this the empirical method.”
“Which means?”
“It only means that one bases one’s knowledge of things on one’s own experience—and not on
dusty parchments or figments of the imagination. Empirical science was known in antiquity, but
systematic experiments were something quite new.”
“I guess they didn’t have any of the technical apparatus we have today.”
“Of course they had neither calculators nor electronic scales. But they had mathematics and they
had scales. And it was now above all imperative to express scientific observations in precise
mathematical terms. ‘Measure what can be measured, and make measurable what cannot be measured,’
said the Italian Galileo Galilei, who was one of the most important scientists of the seventeenth century.
He also said that the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics.”
“And all these experiments and measurements made new inventions possible.”
“The first phase was a new scientific method. This made the technical revolution itself possible,
and the technical breakthrough opened the way for every invention since. You could say that man had
begun to break away from his natural condition. Nature was no longer something man was simply a part
of. ‘Knowledge is power,’ said the English philosopher Francis Bacon, thereby underlining the practical
value of knowledge— and this was indeed new. Man was seriously starting to intervene in nature and
beginning to control it.”
“But not only in a good way?”
“No, this is what I was referring to before when I spoke of the good and the evil threads that are
constantly intertwined in everything we do. The technical revolution that began in the Renaissance led
to the spinning jenny and to unemployment, to medicines and new diseases, to the improved efficiency of agriculture and the impoverishment of the environment, to practical appliances such as the
washing machine and the refrigerator and pollution and industrial waste. The serious threat to the
environment we are facing today has made many people see the technical revolution itself as a perilous
maladjustment to natural conditions. It has been pointed out that we have started something we can no
longer control. More optimistic spirits think we are still living in the cradle of technology, and that
although the scientific age has certainly had its teething troubles, we will gradually learn to control
nature without at the same time threatening its very existence and thus our own.”
“Which do you think?”
“I think perhaps there may be some truth in both views. In some areas we must stop interfering
with nature, but in others we can succeed. One thing is certain: There is no way back to the Middle
Ages. Ever since the Renaissance, mankind has been more than just part of creation. Man has begun to
intervene in nature and form it after his own image. In truth, ‘what a piece of work is man!’ “
“We have already been to the moon. What medieval person would have believed such a thing
possible?”
“No, that’s for sure. Which brings us to the new world view. All through the Middle Ages people
had stood beneath the sky and gazed up at the sun, the moon, the stars, and the planets. But nobody had
doubted that the earth was the center of the universe. No observations had sown any doubt that the earth
remained still while the ‘heavenly bodies’ traveled in their orbits around it. We call this the geocentric
world picture, or in other words, the belief that everything revolves around the earth. The Christian
belief that God ruled from on high, up above all the heavenly bodies, also contributed to maintaining
this world picture.”
“I wish it were that simple!”
“But in 1543 a little book was published entitled On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres. It
was written by the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, who died on the day the book was
published. Copernicus claimed that it was not the sun that moved round the earth, it was vice versa. He
thought this was completely possible from the observations of the heavenly bodies that existed. The
reason people had always believed that the sun went round the earth was that the earth turns on its own
axis, he said. He pointed out that all observations of heavenly bodies were far easier to understand if one
assumed that both the earth and the other planets circle around the sun. We call this the heliocentric
world picture, which means that everything centers around the sun.”
“And that world picture was the right one?”
“Not entirely. His main point—that the earth moves round the sun—is of course correct. But he
claimed that the sun was the center of the universe. Today we know that the sun is only one of an
infinite number of stars, and that all the stars around us make up only one of many billions of galaxies.
Copernicus also believed that the earth and the other planets moved in circular orbits around the sun.”
“Don’t they?”
“No. He had nothing on which to base his belief in the circular orbits other than the ancient idea
that heavenly bodies were round and moved in circles simply because they were ‘heavenly.’ Since the
time of Plato the sphere and the circle had been considered the most perfect geometrical figures. But in
the early 1600s, the German astronomer Johannes Kepler presented the results of comprehensive
observations which showed that the planets move in elliptical—or oval—orbits with the sun at one
focus. He also pointed out that the speed of a planet is greatest when it is closest to the sun, and that the
farther a planet’s orbit is from the sun the slower it moves. Not until Kepler’s time was it actually stated
that the earth was a planet just like other planets. Kepler also emphasized that the same physical laws
apply everywhere throughout the universe.”
“How could he know that?”
“Because he had investigated the movements of the planets with his own senses instead of blindly
trusting ancient superstitions. Galileo Galilei, who was roughly contemporary with Kepler, also used a
telescope to observe the heavenly bodies. He studied the moon’s craters and said that the moon had
mountains and valleys similar to those on earth. Moreover, he discovered that the planet Jupiter had four
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قدیمی ۲۶ آبان ۱۳۹۰, ۰۹:۴۲ بعد از ظهر   #24 (لینک مستقیم)
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first formulated the so-called Law of Inertia.”
“And that is?”
“Galileo formulated it thus: A body remains in the state which it is in, at rest or in motion, as long
as no external force compels it to change its state.”
“If you say so.”
“But this was a significant observation. Since antiquity, one of the central arguments against the
earth moving round its own axis was that the earth would then move so quickly that a stone hurled
straight into the air would fall yards away from the spot it was hurled from.”
“So why doesn’t it?”
“If you’re sitting in a train and you drop an apple, it doesn’t fall backward because the train is
moving. It falls straight down. That is because of the law of inertia. The apple retains exactly the same
speed it had before you dropped it.”
“I think I understand.”
“Now in Galileo’s time there were no trains. But if you roll a ball along the ground—and suddenly
let go...”
“... it goes on rolling ...”
“... because it retains its speed after you let go.”
“But it will stop eventually, if the room is long enough.”
“That’s because other forces slow it down. First, the floor, especially if it is a rough wooden floor.
Then the force of gravity will sooner or later bring it to a halt. But wait, I’ll show you something.”
Alberto Knox got up and went over to the old desk. He took something out of one of the drawers.
When he returned to his place he put it on the coffee table. It was just a wooden board, a few millimeters
thick at one end and thin at the other. Beside the board, which almost covered the whole table, he laid a
green marble.
“This is called an inclined plane,” he said. “What do you think will happen if I let go the marble
up here, where the plane is thickest?”
Sophie sighed resignedly.
“I bet you ten crowns it rolls down onto the table and ends on the floor.”
“Let’s see.”
Alberto let go of the marble and it behaved exactly as Sophie had said. It rolled onto the table,
over the tabletop, hit the floor with a little thud and finally bumped into the wall.
“Impressive,” said Sophie.
“Yes, wasn’t it! This was the kind of experiment Galileo did, you see.”
“Was he really that stupid?”
“Patience! He wanted to investigate things with all his senses, so we have only just begun. Tell me
first why the marble rolled down the inclined plane.”
“It began to roll because it was heavy.”
“All right. And what is weight actually, child?”
“That’s a silly question.”
“It’s not a silly question if you can’t answer it. Why did the marble roll onto the floor?”
“Because of gravity.”
“Exactly—or gravitation, as we also say. Weight has something to do with gravity. That was the
force that set the marble in motion.”
Alberto had already picked the marble up from the floor. He stood bowed over the inclined plane
with the marble again.
“Now I shall try to roll the marble across the plane,” he said. “Watch carefully how it moves.”
Sophie watched as the marble gradually curved away and was drawn down the incline.
“What happened?” asked Alberto.
“It rolled sloping because the board is sloping.”
“Now I’m going to brush the marble with ink ... then perhaps we can study exactly what you mean
by sloping.” He dug out an ink brush and painted the whole marble black. Then he rolled it again. Now Sophie
could see exactly where on the plane the marble had rolled because it had left a black line on the board.
“How would you describe the marble’s path?”
“It’s curved ... it looks like part of a circle.”
“Precisely.”
Alberto looked up at her and raised his eyebrows.
“However, it is not quite a circle. This figure is called a parabola.”
“That’s fine with me.”
“Ah, but why did the marble travel in precisely that way?”
Sophie thought deeply. Then she said, “Because the board was sloping, the marble was drawn
toward the floor by the force of gravity.”-
“Yes, yes! This is nothing less than a sensation! Here I go, dragging a girl who’s not yet fifteen up
to my attic, and she realizes exactly the same thing Galileo did after one single experiment!”
He clapped his hands. For a moment Sophie was afraid he had gone mad. He continued: “You saw
what happened when two forces worked simultaneously on the same object. Galileo discovered that the
same thing applied, for instance, to a cannonball. It is propelled into the air, it continues its path over the
earth, but will eventually be drawn toward the earth. So it will have described a trajectory corresponding
to the marble’s path across the inclined plane. And this was actually a new discovery at the time of
Galileo. Aristotle thought that a projectile hurled obliquely into the air would first describe a gentle
curve and then fall vertically to the earth. This was not so, but nobody could know Aristotle was wrong
before it had been demonstrated.”
“Does all this really matter?”
“Does it matter? You bet it matters! This has cosmic significance, my child. Of all the scientific
discoveries in the history of mankind, this is positively the most important.”
“I’m sure you are going to tell me why.”
“Then along came the English physicist Isaac Newton, who lived from 1642 to 1727. He was the
one who provided the final description of the solar system and the planetary orbits. Not only could he
describe how the planets moved round the sun, he could also explain why they did so. He was able to do
so partly by referring to what we call Galileo’s dynamics.”
“Are the planets marbles on an inclined plane then?”
“Something like that, yes. But wait a bit, Sophie.”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Kepler had already pointed out that there had to be a force that caused the heavenly bodies to
attract each other. There had to be, for example, a solar force which held the planets fast in their orbits.
Such a force would moreover explain why the planets moved more slowly in their orbit the further away
from the sun they traveled. Kepler also believed that the ebb and flow of the tides— the rise and fall in
sea level—must be the result of a lunar force.”
“And that’s true.”
“Yes, it’s true. But it was a theory Galileo rejected. He mocked Kepler, who he said had given his
approval to the idea that the moon rules the water. That was because Galileo rejected the idea that the
forces of gravitation could work over great distances, and also between the heavenly bodies.”
“He was wrong there.”
“Yes. On that particular point he was wrong. And that was funny, really, because he was very
preoccupied with the earth’s gravity and falling bodies. He had even indicated how increased force can
control the movement of a body.”
“But you were talking about Newton.”
“Yes, along came Newton. He formulated what we call the Law of Universal Gravitation. This law
states that every object attracts every other object with a force that increases in proportion to the size of
the objects and decreases in proportion to the distance between the objects.”
“I think I understand. For example, there is greater attraction between two elephants than there is
between two mice. And there is greater attraction between two elephants in the same zoo than there is between an Indian elephant in India and an African elephant in Africa.”
“Then you have understood it. And now comes the central point. Newton proved that this
attraction—or gravitation—is universal, which means it is operative everywhere, also in space between
heavenly bodies. He is said to have gotten this idea while he was sitting under an apple tree. When he
saw an apple fall from the tree he had to ask himself if the moon was drawn to earth with the same force,
and if this was the reason why the moon continued to orbit the earth to all eternity.”
“Smart. But not so smart really.”
“Why not, Sophie?”
“Well, if the moon was drawn to the earth with the same force that causes the apple to fall, one
day the moon would come crashing to earth instead of going round and round it for ever.”
“Which brings us to Newton’s law on planetary orbits. In the case of how the earth attracts the
moon, you are fifty percent right but fifty percent wrong. Why doesn’t the moon fall to earth? Because it
really is true that the earth’s gravitational force attracting the moon is tremendous. Just think of the force
required to lift sea level a meter or two at high tide.”
“I don’t think I understand.”
“Remember Galileo’s inclined plane. What happened when I rolled the marble across it?”
“Are there two different forces working on the moon?”
“Exactly. Once upon a time when the solar system began, the moon was hurled outward—outward
from the earth, that is—with tremendous force. This force will remain in effect forever because it moves
in a vacuum without resistance...”
“But it is also attracted to the earth because of earth’s gravitational force, isn’t it?”
“Exactly. Both forces are constant, and both work simultaneously. Therefore the moon will
continue to orbit the earth.”
“Is it really as simple as that?”
“As simple as that, and this very same simplicity was Newton’s whole point. He demonstrated that
a few natural laws apply to the whole universe. In calculating the planetary orbits he had merely applied
two natural laws which Galileo had already proposed. One was the law of inertia, which Newton
expressed thus: ‘A body remains in its state of rest or rectilinear motion until it is compelled to change
that state by a force impressed on it.’ The other law had been demonstrated by Galileo on an inclined
plane: When two forces work on a body simultaneously, the body will move on an elliptical path.”
“And that’s how Newton could explain why all the planets go round the sun.”
“Yes. All the planets travel in elliptical orbits round the sun as the result of two unequal
movements: first, the rectilinear movement they had when the solar system was formed, and second, the
movement toward the sun due to gravitation.”
“Very clever.”
“Very. Newton demonstrated that the same laws of moving bodies apply everywhere in the entire
universe. He thus did away with the medieval belief that there is one set of laws for heaven and another
here on earth. The heliocentric world view had found its final confirmation and its final explanation.”
Alberto got up and put the inclined plane away again. He picked up the marble and placed it on the
table between them.
Sophie thought it was amazing how much they had gotten out of a bit of slanting wood and a
marble. As she looked at the green marble, which was still smudged with ink, she couldn’t help thinking
of the earth’s globe. She said, “And people just had to accept that they were living on a random planet
somewhere in space?”
“Yes—the new world view was in many ways a great burden. The situation was comparable to
what happened later on when Darwin proved that mankind had developed from animals. In both cases
mankind lost some of its special status in creation. And in both cases the Church put up a massive
resistance.”
“I can well understand that. Because where was God in all this new stuff? It was simpler when the
earth was the center and God and the planets were upstairs.”
“But that was not the greatest challenge. When Newton had proved that the same natural laws applied everywhere in the universe, one might think that he thereby undermined people’s faith in
God’s omnipotence. But Newton’s own faith was never shaken. He regarded the natural laws as proof of
the existence of the great and almighty God. It’s possible that man’s picture of himself fared worse.”
“How do you mean?”
“Since the Renaissance, people have had to get used to living their life on a random planet in the
vast galaxy. I am not sure we have wholly accepted it even now. But there were those even in the
Renaissance who said that every single one of us now had a more central position than before.”
“I don’t quite understand.”
“Formerly, the earth was the center of the world. But since astronomers now said that there was no
absolute center to the universe, it came to be thought that there were just as many centers as there were
people. Each person could be the center of a universe.”
“Ah, I think I see.”
“The Renaissance resulted in a new religiosity. As philosophy and science gradually broke away
from theology, a new Christian piety developed. Then the Renaissance arrived with its new view of
man. This had its effect on religious life. The individual’s personal relationship to God was now more
important than his relationship to the church as an organization.”
“Like saying one’s prayers at night, for instance?”
“Yes, that too. In the medieval Catholic Church, the church’s liturgy in Latin and the church’s
ritual prayers had been the backbone of the religious service. Only priests and monks read the Bible
because it only existed in Latin. But during the Renaissance, the Bible was translated from Hebrew and
Greek into national languages. It was central to what we call the Reformation.”
“Martin Luther...”
“Yes, Martin Luther was important, but he was not the only reformer. There were also
ecclesiastical reformers who chose to remain within the Roman Catholic church. One of them was
Erasmus of Rotterdam.”
“Luther broke with the Catholic Church because he wouldn’t buy indulgences, didn’t he?”
“Yes, that was one of the reasons. But there was a more important reason. According to Luther,
people did not need the intercession of the church or its priests in order to receive God’s forgiveness.
Neither was God’s forgiveness dependent on the buying of ‘indulgences’ from the church. Trading in
these so-called letters of indulgence was forbidden by the Catholic Church from the middle of the
sixteenth century.”
“God was probably glad of that.”
“In general, Luther distanced himself from many of the religious customs and dogmas that had
become rooted in ecclesiastical history during the Middle Ages. He wanted to return to early Christianity
as it was in the New Testament. The Scripture alone,’ he said. With this slogan Luther wished to return
to the ‘source’ of Christianity, just as the Renaissance humanists had wanted to turn to the ancient
sources of art and culture. Luther translated the Bible into German, thereby founding the German written
language. He believed every man should be able to read the Bible and thus in a sense become his own
priest.”
“His own priest? Wasn’t that taking it a bit far?”
“What he meant was that priests had no preferential position in relation to God. The Lutheran
congregations employed priests for practical reasons, such as conducting services and attending to the
daily clerical tasks, but Luther did not believe that anyone received God’s forgiveness and redemption
from sin through church rituals. Man received ‘free’ redemption through faith alone, he said. This was a
belief he arrived at by reading the Bible.”
“So Luther was also a typical Renaissance man?”
“Yes and no. A characteristic Renaissance feature was his emphasis on the individual and the
individual’s personal relationship to God. So he taught himself Greek at the age of thirty-five and began
the laborious job of translating the Bible from the ancient Greek version into German. Allowing the
language of the people to take precedence over Latin was also a characteristic Renaissance feature. But
Luther was not a humanist like Ficino or Leonardo da Vinci. He was also opposed by humanists such as aimed that mankind was totally depraved after the Fall from Grace. Only through the grace of God
could mankind be ‘justified,’ he believed. For the wages of sin is death.”
“That sounds very gloomy.”
Alberto Knox rose. He picked up the little green and black marble and put it in his top pocket.
“It’s after four!” Sophie exclaimed in horror.
“And the next great epoch in the history of mankind is the Baroque. But we shall have to keep that
for another day, my dear Hilde.”
“What did you say?” Sophie shot up from the chair she had been sitting in. “You called me
Hilde!”
“That was a serious slip of the tongue.”
“But a slip of the tongue is never wholly accidental.”
“You may be right. You’ll notice that Hilde’s father has begun to put words in our mouths. I think
he is exploiting the fact that we are getting weary and are not defending ourselves very well.”
“You said once that you are not Hilde’s father. Is that really true?”
Alberto nodded.
“But am I Hilde?”
“I’m tired now, Sophie. You have to understand that. We have been sitting here for over two
hours, and I have been doing most of the talking. Don’t you have to go home to eat?”
Sophie felt almost as if he was trying to throw her out. As she went into the little hall, she thought
intensely about why he had made that slip. Alberto came out after her.
Hermes was lying asleep under a small row of pegs on which hung several strange-looking
garments that could have been theatrical costumes. Alberto nodded toward the dog and said, “He will
come and fetch you.”
“Thank you for my lesson,” said Sophie.
She gave Alberto an impulsive hug. “You’re the best and kindest philosophy teacher I’ve ever
had,” she said.
With that she opened the door to the staircase. As the door closed, Alberto said, “It won’t be long
before we meet again, Hilde.”
Sophie was left with those words.
Another slip of the tongue, the villain! Sophie had a strong desire to turn around and hammer on
the door but something held her back.
On reaching the street she remembered that she had no money on her. She would have to walk all
the long way home. How annoying! Her mother would be both angry and worried if she didn’t get back
by six, that was for sure.
She had not gone more than a few yards when she suddenly noticed a coin on the sidewalk. It was
ten crowns, exactly the price of a bus ticket.
Sophie found her way to the bus stop and waited for a bus to the Main Square. From there she
could take a bus on the same ticket and ride almost to her door.
Not until she was standing at the Main Square waiting for the second bus did she begin to wonder
why she had been lucky enough to find the coin just when she needed it.
Could Hilde’s father have left it there? He was a master at leaving things in the most convenient
places.
How could he, if he was in Lebanon?
And why had Alberto made that slip? Not once but twice!
Sophie shivered. She felt a chill run down her spine.
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قدیمی ۲۶ آبان ۱۳۹۰, ۰۹:۴۴ بعد از ظهر   #25 (لینک مستقیم)
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The Baroque
…such stuff as dreams are made on…
Sophie heard nothing more from Alberto for several days, but she glanced frequently into the
garden hoping to catch sight of Hermes. She told her mother that the dog had found its own way home
and that she had been invited in by its owner, a former physics teacher. He had told Sophie about the
solar system and the new science that developed in the sixteenth century.
She told Joanna more. She told her all about her visit to Alberto, the postcard in the mailbox, and
the ten-crown piece she had found on the way home. She kept the dream about Hilde and the gold
crucifix to herself.
On Tuesday, May 29, Sophie was standing in the kitchen doing the dishes. Her mother had gone
into the living room to watch the TV news. When the opening theme faded out she heard from the
kitchen that a major in the Norwegian UN Battalion had been killed by a shell.
Sophie threw the dish towel on the table and rushed into the living room. She was just in time to
catch a glimpse of the UN officer’s face for a few seconds before they switched to the next item.
“Oh no!” she cried.
Her mother turned to her.
“Yes, war is a terrible thing!”
Sophie burst into tears.
“But Sophie, it’s not that bad!”
“Did they say his name?”
“Yes, but I don’t remember it. He was from Grimstad, I think.”
“Isn’t that the same as Lillesand?”
“No, you’re being silly.”
“But if you come from Grimstad, you might go to school in Lillesand.”
She had stopped crying, but now it was her mother’s turn to react. She got out of her chair and
switched off the TV.
“What’s going on, Sophie?”
“Nothing.”
“Yes, there is. You have a boyfriend, and I’m beginning to think he’s much older than you.
Answer me now: Do you know a man in Lebanon?”
“No, not exactly...”
“Have you met the son of someone in Lebanon?”
“No, I haven’t. I haven’t even met his daughter.”
“Whose daughter?”
“It’s none of your business.”
“I think it is.”
“Maybe I should start asking some questions instead. Why is Dad never home? Is it because you
haven’t got the guts to get a divorce? Maybe you’ve got a boyfriend you don’t want Dad and me to
know about and so on and so on. I’ve got plenty of questions of my own.”
“I think we need to talk.”
“That may be. But right now I’m so worn out I’m going to bed. And I’m getting my period.”
Sophie ran up to her room; she felt like crying.
As soon as she was through in the bathroom and had curled up under the covers, her mother came
into the bedroom.
Sophie pretended to be asleep even though she knew her mother wouldn’t believe it. She knew her
mother knew that Sophie knew her mother wouldn’t believe it either. Nevertheless her mother pretended
to believe that Sophie was asleep. She sat on the edge of Sophie’s bed and stroked her hair.
Sophie was thinking how complicated it was to live two lives at the same time. She began to look
forward to the end of the philosophy course. Maybe it would be over by her birthday—or at least by
Midsummer Eve, when Hilde’s father would be home from Lebanon ...
“I want to have a birthday party,” she said suddenly.
“That sounds great. Who will you invite?”
“Lots of people ... Can I?”
“Of course. We have a big garden. Hopefully the good weather will continue.”
“Most of all I’d like to have it on Midsummer Eve.”
“All right, that’s what we’ll do.”
“It’s a very important day,” Sophie said, thinking not only of her birthday.
“It is, indeed.”
“I feel I’ve grown up a lot lately.”
“That’s good, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know.”
Sophie had been talking with her head almost buried in her pillow. Now her mother said,
“Sophie—you must tell me why you seem so out of balance at the moment.”
“Weren’t you like this when you were fifteen?”
“Probably. But you know what I am talking about.”
Sophie suddenly turned to face her mother. “The dog’s name is Hermes,” she said.
“It is?”
“It belongs to a man called Alberto.”
“I see.”
“He lives down in the Old Town.”
“You went all that way with the dog?”
“There’s nothing dangerous about that.”
“You said that the dog had often been here.”
“Did I say that?”
She had to think now. She wanted to tell as much as possible, but she couldn’t tell everything.
“You’re hardly ever at home,” she ventured.
“No, I’m much too busy.”
“Alberto and Hermes have been here lots of times.”
“What for?Were they in the house as well?”
“Can’t you at least ask one question at a time? They haven’t been in the house. But they often go
for walks in the woods. Is that so mysterious?”
“No, not in the least.”
“They walk past our gate like everyone else when they go for a walk. One day when I got home
from school I talked to the dog. That’s how I got to know Alberto.”
“What about the white rabbit and all that stuff?”
“That was something Alberto said. He is a real philosopher, you see. He has told me about all the
philosophers.”
“Just like that, over the hedge?”
“He has also written letters to me, lots of times, actually. Sometimes he has sent them by mail and
other times he has just dropped them in the mailbox on his way out for a walk.”
“So that was the ‘love letter’ we talked about.”
“Except that it wasn’t a love letter.”
“And he only wrote about philosophy?”
“Yes, can you imagine! And I’ve learned more from him than I have learned in eight years of
school. For instance, have you ever heard of Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake in 1600? Or
of Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation?”
“No, there’s a lot I don’t know.”
“I bet you don’t even know why the earth orbits the sun—and it’s your own planet!”
“About how old is this man?”
“I have no idea—about fifty, probably.”
“But what is his connection with Lebanon?”
This was a tough one. Sophie thought hard. She chose the most likely story.
“Alberto has a brother who’s a major in the UN Battalion. And he’s from Lillesand. Maybe he’s
the major who once lived in the major’s cabin.” “Alberto’s a funny kind of name, isn’t it?”
“Perhaps.”
“It sounds Italian.”
“Well, nearly everything that’s important comes either from Greece or from Italy.”
“But he speaks Norwegian?”
“Oh yes, fluently.”
“You know what, Sophie—I think you should invite
Alberto home one day. I have never met a real philosopher.”
“We’ll see.”
“Maybe we could invite him to your birthday party? It could be such fun to mix the generations.
Then maybe I could come too. At least, I could help with the serving. Wouldn’t that be a good idea?”
“If he will. At any rate, he’s more interesting to talk to than the boys in my class. It’s just that...”
“What?”
“They’d probably flip and think Alberto was my new boyfriend.”
“Then you just tell them he isn’t.”
“Well, we’ll have to see.”
“Yes, we shall. And Sophie—it is true that things haven’t always been easy between Dad and me.
But there was never anyone else ...”
“I have to sleep now. I’ve got such awful cramps.”
“Do you want an aspirin?” /’Yes, please.”
When her mother returned with the pill and a glass of water Sophie had fallen asleep.
May 31 was a Thursday. Sophie agonized through the afternoon classes at school. She was doing
better in some subjects since she started on the philosophy course. Usually her grades were good in most
subjects, but lately they were even better, except in math.
In the last class they got an essay handed back. Sophie had written on “Man and Technology.” She
had written reams on the Renaissance and the scientific breakthrough, the new view of nature and
Francis Bacon, who had said that knowledge was power. She had been very careful to point out that the
empirical method came before the technological discoveries. Then she had written about some of the
things she could think of about technology that were not so good for society. She ended with a
paragraph on the fact that everything people do can be used for good or evil. Good and evil are like a
white and a black thread that make up a single strand.
Sometimes they are so closely intertwined that it is impossible to untangle them.
As the teacher gave out the exercise books he looked down at Sophie and winked.
She got an A and the comment: “Where do you get all this from?” As he stood there, she took out
a pen and wrote with block letters in the margin of her exercise book: I’M STUDYING PHILOSOPHY.
As she was closing the exercise book again, something fell out of it. It was a postcard from
Lebanon:
Dear Hilde, When you read this we shall already have spoken together by phone about the tragic
death down here. Sometimes I ask myself if war could have been avoided if people had been a bit better
at thinking. Perhaps the best remedy against violence would be a short course in philosophy. What about
“the UN’s little philosophy book”—which all new citizens of the world could be given a copy of in
their own language. I’ll propose the idea to the UN General Secretary.
You said on the phone that you were getting better at looking after your things. I’m glad, because
you’re the untidiest creature I’ve ever met. Then you said the only thing you’d lost since we last spoke
was ten crowns. I’ll do what I can to help you find it. Although I am far away, I have a helping hand
back home. (If I find the money I’ll put it in with your birthday present.) Love, Dad, who feels as if he’s
already started the long trip home.
Sophie had just managed to finish reading the card when the last bell rang. Once again her
thoughts were in turmoil.
Joanna was waiting in the playground. On the way home Sophie opened her schoolbag and
showed Joanna the latest card. “When is it postmarked?” asked Joanna.
“Probably June 15 ...”
“No, look ... 5/30/90, it says.”
“That was yesterday ... the day after the death of the major in Lebanon.”
“I doubt if a postcard from Lebanon can get to Norway in one day,” said Joanna.
“Especially not considering the rather unusual address: Hilde Moller Knag, c/o Sophie Amundsen,
Fu-rulia Junior High School...”
“Do you think it could have come by mail? And the teacher just popped it in your exercise book?”
“No idea. I don’t know whether I dare ask either.”
No more was said about the postcard.
“I’m going to have a garden party on Midsummer Eve,” said Sophie.
“With boys?”
Sophie shrugged her shoulders. “We don’t have to invite the worst idiots.”
“But you are going to invite Jeremy?”
“If you want. By the way, I might invite Alberto Knox.”
“You must be crazy!”
“I know.”
That was as far as the conversation got before their ways parted at the supermarket.
The first thing Sophie did when she got home was to see if Hermes was in the garden. Sure
enough, there he was, sniffing around the apple trees.
“Hermes!”
The dog stood motionless for a second. Sophie knew exactly what was going on in that second: the
dog heard her call, recognized her voice, and decided to see if she was there. Then, discovering her, he
began to run toward her. Finally all four legs came pattering like drumsticks.
That was actually quite a lot in the space of one second.
He dashed up to her, wagged his tail wildly, and jumped up to lick her face.
“Hermes, clever boy! Down, down. No, stop slobbering all over me. Heel, boy! That’s it!”
Sophie let herself into the house. Sherekan came jumping out from the bushes. He was rather wary
of the stranger. Sophie put his cat food out, poured birdseed in the budgerigars’ cup, got out a salad leaf
for the tortoise, and wrote a note to her mother.
She wrote that she was going to take Hermes home and would be back by seven.
They set off through the town. Sophie had remembered to take some money with her this time.
She wondered whether she ought to take the bus with Hermes, but decided she had better wait and ask
Alberto about it.
While she walked on and on behind Hermes she thought about what an animal really is.
What was the difference between a dog and a person? She recalled Aristotle’s words. He said that
people and animals are both natural living creatures with a lot of characteristics in common. But there
was one distinct difference between people and animals, and that was human reasoning.
How could he have been so sure?
Democritus, on the other hand, thought people and animals were really rather alike because both
were made up of atoms. And he didn’t think that either people or animals had immortal souls. According
to him, souls were built up of atoms that are spread to the winds when people die. He was the one who
thought a person’s soul was inseparably bound to the brain.
But how could the soul be made of atoms? The soul wasn’t anything you could touch like the rest
of the body. It was something “spiritual.”
They were already beyond Main Square and were approaching the Old Town. When they got to
the sidewalk where Sophie had found the ten crowns, she looked automatically down at the asphalt. And
there, on exactly the same spot where she had bent down and picked up the money, lay a postcard with
the picture side up. The picture showed a garden with palms and orange trees.
Sophie bent down and picked up the card. Hermes started growling as if he didn’t like Sophie
touching it.
The card read:
Dear Hilde, Life consists of a long chain of coincidences. It is not altogether unlikely that the ten
crowns you lost turned up right here. Maybe it was found on the square in Lillesand by an old lady who
was waiting for the bus to Kristiansand. From Kris-tiansand she took the train to visit her grandchildren,
and many, many hours later she lost the coin here on New Square. It is then perfectly possible that the
very same coin was picked up later on that day by a girl who really needed it to get home by bus. You
never can tell, Hilde, but if it is truly so, then one must certainly ask whether or not God’s providence is
behind everything. Love, Dad, who in spirit is sitting on the dock at home in Lillesand. P.S. I said I
would help you find the ten crowns.
On the address side it said: “Hilde Moller Knag, c/o a casual passer-by...” The postmark was
stamped 6/15/90.
Sophie ran up the stairs after Hermes. As soon as Alberto opened the door, she said:
“Out of my way. Here comes the mailman.”
She felt she had every reason to be annoyed. Alberto stood aside as she barged in. Hermes laid
himself down under the coat pegs as before.
“Has the major presented another visiting card, my child?”
Sophie looked up at him and discovered that he was wearing a different costume. He had put on a
long curled wig and a wide, baggy suit with a mass of lace. He wore a loud silk scarf at his throat, and
on top of the suit he had thrown a red cape. He also wore white stockings and thin patent leather shoes
with bows. The whole costume reminded Sophie of pictures she had seen of the court of Louis XIV.
“You clown!” she said and handed him the card.
“Hm ... and you really found ten crowns on the same spot where he planted the card?”
“Exactly.”
“He gets ruder all the time. But maybe it’s just as well.”
“Why?”
“It’ll make it easier to unmask him. But this trick was both pompous and tasteless. It almost stinks
of cheap perfume.”
“Perfume?”
“It tries to be elegant but is really a sham. Can’t you see how he has the effrontery to compare his
own shabby surveillance of us with God’s providence?”
He held up the card. Then he tore it to pieces. So as not to make his mood worse she refrained
from mentioning the card that fell out of her exercise book at school.
“Let’s go in and sit down. What time is it?”
“Four o’clock.”
“And today we are going to talk about the seventeenth century.”
They went into the living room with the sloping walls and the skylight. Sophie noticed that
Alberto had put different objects out in place of some of those she had seen last time.
On the coffee table was a small antique casket containing an assorted collection of lenses for
eyeglasses. Beside it lay an open book. It looked really old.
“What is that?” Sophie asked.
“It is a first edition of the book of Descartes’s philosophical essays published in 1637 in which his
famous Discourse on Method originally appeared, and one of my most treasured possessions.”
“And the casket?”
“It holds an exclusive collection of lenses—or optical glass. They were polished by the Dutch
philosopher Spinoza sometime during the mid-1600s. They were extremely costly and are also among
my most valued treasures.”
“I would probably understand better how valuable these things are if I knew who Spinoza and
Descartes were.”
“Of course. But first let us try to familiarize ourselves with the period they lived in. Have a seat.”
They sat in the same places as before, Sophie in the big armchair and Alberto Knox on the sofa.
Between them was the coffee table with the book and the casket. Alberto removed his wig and laid it on
Descartes


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the writing desk.
“We are going to talk about the seventeenth century—or what we generally refer to as the Baroque
period.”
“The Baroque period? What a strange name.”
“The word ‘baroque’ comes from a word that was first used to describe a pearl of irregular shape.
Irregularity was typical of Baroque art, which was much richer in highly contrastive forms than the
plainer and more harmonious Renaissance art. The seventeenth century was on the whole characterized
by tensions between irreconcilable contrasts. On the one hand there was the Renaissance’s unremitting
optimism—and on the other hand there were the many who sought the opposite extreme in a life of
religious seclusion and self-denial. Both in art and in real life, we meet pompous and flamboyant forms
of self-expression, while at the same time there arose a monastic movement, turning away from the
world.”
“Both proud palaces and remote monasteries, in other words.”
“Yes, you could certainly say that. One of the Baroque period’s favorite sayings was the Latin
expression ‘carpe diem’—‘seize the day.’ Another Latin expression that was widely quoted was
‘memento mori,’ which means ‘Remember that you must die.’ In art, a painting could depict an
extremely luxurious lifestyle, with a little skull painted in one corner.
“In many senses, the Baroque period was characterized by vanity or affectation. But at the same
time a lot of people were concerned with the other side of the coin; they were concerned with the
ephemeral nature of things. That is, the fact that all the beauty that surrounds us must one day perish.”
“It’s true. It is sad to realize that nothing lasts.”
“You think exactly as many people did in the seventeenth century. The Baroque period was also
an age of conflict in a political sense. Europe was ravaged by wars. The worst was the Thirty Years’
War which raged over most of the continent from 1618 to 1648. In reality it was a series of wars which
took a particular toll on Germany. Not least as a result of the Thirty Years’ War,
France gradually became the dominant power in Europe.”
“What were the wars about?”
“To a great extent they were wars between Protestants and Catholics. But they were also about
political power.”
“More or less like in Lebanon.”
“Apart from wars, the seventeenth century was a time of great class differences. I’m sure you have
heard of the French aristocracy and the Court of Versailles. I don’t know whether you have heard much
about the poverty of the French people. But any display of magnificence presupposes a display of
power. It has often been said that the political situation in the Baroque period was not unlike its art and
architecture. Baroque buildings were typified by a lot of ornate nooks and crannies. In a somewhat
similar fashion the political situation was typified by intrigue, plotting, and assassinations.”
“Wasn’t a Swedish king shot in a theater?”
“You’re thinking of Gustav III, a good example of the sort of thing I mean. The assassination of
Gustav III wasn’t until 1792, but the circumstances were quite baroque. He was murdered while
attending a huge masked ball.”
“I thought he was at the theater.”
“The great masked ball was held at the Opera. We could say that the Baroque period in Sweden
came to an end with the murder of Gustav III. During his time there had been a rule of ‘enlightened
despotism,’ similar to that in the reign of Louis XIV almost a hundred years earlier. Gustav III was also
an extremely vain person who adored all French ceremony and courtesies. He also loved the theater...”
“... and that was the death of him.”
“Yes, but the theater of the Baroque period was more than an art form. It was the most commonly
employed symbol of the time.”
“A symbol of what?”
“Of life, Sophie. I don’t know how many times during the seventeenth century it was said that
‘Life is a theater.’ It was very often, anyway. The Baroque period gave birth to modern theater—with all its forms of scenery and theatrical machinery. In the theater one built up an illusion on stage—to
expose ultimately that the stage play was just an illusion. The theater thus became a reflection of human
life in general. The theater could show that ‘pride comes before a fall,’ and present a merciless portrait
of human frailty.”
“Did Shakespeare live in the Baroque period?”
“He wrote his greatest plays around the year 1600, so he stands with one foot in the Renaissance
and the other in the Baroque. Shakespeare’s work is full of passages about life as a theater. Would you
like to hear some of them?”
“Yes.”
“In As You Like It, he says:
All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and
their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.
“And in Macbeth, he says:
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then
is heard no more; it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”
“How very pessimistic.”
“He was preoccupied with the brevity of life. You must have heard Shakespeare’s most famous
line?”
“To be or not to be—that is the question.”
“Yes, spoken by Hamlet. One day we are walking around on the earth—and the next day we are
dead and gone.”
“Thanks, I got the message.”
“When they were not comparing life to a stage, the Baroque poets were comparing life to a dream.
Shakespeare says, for example: We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded
with a sleep...”
“That was very poetic.”
“The Spanish dramatist Calderon de la Barca, who was bom in the year 1600, wrote a play called
Life Is a Dream, in which he says: ‘What is life? A madness. What is life? An illusion, a shadow, a
story, and the greatest good is little enough, for all life is a dream ...’ “
“He may be right. We read a play at school. It was called Jeppe on the Mount.”
“By Ludvig Holberg, yes. He was a gigantic figure here in Scandinavia, marking the transition
from the Baroque period to the Age of Enlightenment.”
“Jeppe falls asleep in a ditch ... and wakes up in the Baron’s bed. So he thinks he only dreamed
that he was a poor farmhand. Then when he falls asleep again they carry him back to the ditch, and he
wakes up again. This time he thinks he only dreamed he was lying in the Baron’s bed.”
“Holberg borrowed this theme from Calderon, and Calderon had borrowed it from the old Arabian
tales, A Thousand and One Nights. Comparing life to a dream, though, is a theme we find even farther
back in history, not least in India and China. The old Chinese sage Chuang-tzu, for example, said: Once
I dreamed I was a butterfly, and now I no longer know whether I am Chuang-tzu, who dreamed I was a
butterfly, or whether I am a butterfly dreaming that I am Chuang-tzu.”
“Well, it was impossible to prove either way.”
“We had in Norway a genuine Baroque poet called Fetter Dass, who lived from 1647 to 1707. On
the one hand he was concerned with describing life as it is here and now, and on the other hand he
emphasized that only God is eternal and constant.”
“God is God if every land was waste, God is God if every man were dead.”
“But in the same hymn he writes about rural life in Northern Norway—and about lumpfish, cod,
and coal-fish. This is a typical Baroque feature, describing in the same text the earthly and the here and
now—and the celestial and the hereafter. It is all very reminiscent of Plato’s distinction between the
concrete world of the senses and the immutable world of ideas.”
“What about their philosophy?”
“That too was characterized by powerful struggles between diametrically opposed modes of thought. As I have already mentioned, some philosophers believed that what exists is at bottom
spiritual in nature. This standpoint is called idealism. The opposite viewpoint is called materialism. By
this is meant a philosophy which holds that all real things derive from concrete material substances.
Materialism also had many advocates in the seventeenth century. Perhaps the most influential was the
English philosopher Thomas Hobbes. He believed that all phenomena, including man and animals,
consist exclusively of particles of matter. Even human consciousness—or the soul—derives from the
movement of tiny particles in the brain.”
“So he agreed with what Democritus said two thousand years before?”
“Both idealism and materialism are themes you will find all through the history of philosophy. But
seldom have both views been so clearly present at the same time as in the Baroque. Materialism was
constantly nourished by the new sciences. Newton showed that the same laws of motion applied to the
whole universe, and that all changes in the natural world—both on earth and in space—were explained
by the principles of universal gravitation and the motion of bodies.
“Everything was thus governed by the same unbreakable laws—or by the same mechanisms. It is
therefore possible in principle to calculate every natural change with mathematical precision. And thus
Newton completed what we call the mechanistic world view.”
“Did he imagine the world as one big machine?”
“He did indeed. The word ‘mechanic’ comes from the Greek word ‘mechane,’ which means
machine. It is remarkable that neither Hobbes nor Newton saw any contradiction between the
mechanistic world picture and belief in God. But this was not the case for all eighteenth- and nineteenthcentury
materialists. The French physician and philosopher La Mettrie wrote a book in the eighteenth
century called L ‘homme machine, which means ‘Man—the machine.’ Just as the leg has muscles to
walk with, so has the brain ‘muscles’ to think with. Later on, the French mathematician Laplace expressed
an extreme mechanistic view with this idea: If an intelligence at a given time had known the
position of all particles of matter, ‘nothing would be unknown, and both future and past would lie open
before their eyes.’ The idea here was that everything that happens is predetermined. ‘It’s written in the
stars’ that something will happen. This view is called determinism.”
“So there was no such thing as free will.”
“No, everything was a product of mechanical processes—also our thoughts and dreams. German
materialists in the nineteenth century claimed that the relationship of thought to the brain was like the
relationship of urine to the kidneys and gall to the liver.”
“But urine and gall are material. Thoughts aren’t.”
“You’ve got hold of something central there. I can tell you a story about the same thing. A Russian
astronaut and a Russian brain surgeon were once discussing religion. The brain surgeon was a Christian
but the astronaut was not. The astronaut said, ‘I’ve been out in space many times but I’ve never seen
God or angels.’ And the brain surgeon said, ‘And I’ve operated on many clever brains but I’ve never
seen a single thought.’ “ “But that doesn’t prove that thoughts don’t exist.”
“No, but it does underline the fact that thoughts are not things that can be operated on or broken
down into ever smaller parts. It is not easy, for example, to surgically remove a delusion. It grows too
deep, as it were, for surgery. An important seventeenth-century philosopher named Leibniz pointed out
that the difference between the material and the spiritual is precisely that the material can be broken up
into smaller and smaller bits, but the soul cannot even be divided into two.”
“No, what kind of scalpel would you use for that?” Alberto simply shook his head. After a while
he pointed down at the table between them and said:
“The two greatest philosophers in the seventeenth century were Descartes and Spinoza. They too
struggled with questions like the relationship between ‘soul’ and ‘body,’ and we are now going to study
them more closely.”
“Go ahead. But I’m supposed to be home by seven.”
... he wanted to clear all the rubble off the site…
Alberto stood up, took off the red cloak, and laid it over a chair. Then he settled himself once
again in the corner of the sofa.
“Rene Descartes was born in 1596 and lived in a number of different European countries at
various periods of his life. Even as a young man he had a strong desire to achieve insight into the nature
of man and the universe. But after studying philosophy he became increasingly convinced of his own
ignorance.”
“Like Socrates?”
“More or less like him, yes. Like Socrates, he was convinced that certain knowledge is only
attainable through reason. We can never trust what the old books tell us. We cannot even trust what our
senses tell us.”
“Plato thought that too. He believed that only reason can give us certain knowledge.”
“Exactly. There is a direct line of descent from Socrates and Plato via St. Augustine to Descartes.
They were all typical rationalists, convinced that reason was the only path to knowledge. After
comprehensive studies, Descartes came to the conclusion that the body of knowledge handed down from
the Middle Ages was not necessarily reliable. You can compare him to Socrates, who did not trust the
general views he encountered in the central square of Athens. So what does one do, Sophie? Can you tell
me that?”
“You begin to work out your own philosophy.”
“Right! Descartes decided to travel around Europe, the way Socrates spent his life talking to
people in Athens. He relates that from then on he meant to confine himself to seeking the wisdom that
was to be found, either within himself or in the ‘great book of the world.’ So he joined the army and
went to war, which enabled him to spend periods of time in different parts of Central Europe. Later he
lived for some years in Paris, but in 1629 he went to Holland, where he remained for nearly twenty years
working on his mathematical and philosophic writings.
“In 1649 he was invited to Sweden by Queen Christina. But his sojourn in what he called ‘the land
of bears, ice, and rocks’ brought on an attack of pneumonia and he died in the winter of 1650.”
“So he was only 54 when he died.”
“Yes, but he was to have enormous influence on philosophy, even after his death. One can say
without exaggeration that Descartes was the father of modern philosophy. Following the heady
rediscovery of man and nature in the Renaissance, the need to assemble contemporary thought into one
coherent philosophical system again presented itself. The first significant system-builder was Descartes,
and he was followed by Spinoza and Leibniz, Locke and Berkeley, Hume and Kant.”
“What do you mean by a philosophical system?”
“I mean a philosophy that is constructed from the ground up and that is concerned with finding
explanations for all the central questions of philosophy. Antiquity had its great system-constructors in
Plato and Aristotle. The Middle Ages had St. Thomas Aquinas, who tried to build a bridge between
Aristotle’s philosophy and Christian theology. Then came the Renaissance, with a welter of old and new
beliefs about nature and science, God and man. Not until the seventeenth century did philosophers make
any attempt to assemble the new ideas into a clarified philosophical system, and the first to attempt it
was Descartes. His work was the forerunner of what was to be philosophy’s most important project in
the coming generations. His main concern was with what we can know, or in other words, certain
knowledge. The other great question that preoccupied him was the relationship between body and mind.
Both these questions were the substance of philosophical argument for the next hundred and fifty years.”
“He must have been ahead of his time.”
“Ah, but the question belonged to the age. When it came to acquiring certain knowledge, many of
his contemporaries voiced a total philosophic skepticism. They thought that man should accept that he
knew nothing. But Descartes would not. Had he done so he would not have been a real philosopher. We
can again draw a parallel with Socrates, who did not accept the skepticism of the Sophists. And it was in
Descartes’s lifetime that the new natural sciences were developing a method by which to provide certain and exact descriptions of natural processes.
“Descartes was obliged to ask himself if there was a similar certain and exact method of
philosophic reflection.”
“That I can understand.”
“But that was only part of it. The new physics had also raised the question of the nature of matter,
and thus what determines the physical processes of nature. More and more people argued in favor of a
mechanistic view of nature. But the more mechanistic the physical world was seen to be, the more
pressing became the question of the relationship between body and soul. Until the seventeenth century,
the soul had commonly been considered as a sort of ‘breath of life’ that pervaded all living creatures.
The original meaning of the words ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ is, in fact, ‘breath’ and ‘breathing.’ This is the case
for almost all European languages. To Aristotle, the soul was something that was present everywhere in
the organism as its ‘life principle’—and therefore could not be conceived as separate from the body. So
he was able to speak of a plant soul or an animal soul. Philosophers did not introduce any radical
division of soul and body until the seventeenth century. The reason was that the motions of all material
objects—including the body, animal or human—were explained as involving mechanical processes. But
man’s soul could surely not be part of this body machinery, could it? What of the soul, then? An
explanation was required not least of how something ‘spiritual’ could start a mechanical process.”
“It’s a strange thought, actually.”
“What is?”
“I decide to lift my arm—and then, well, the arm lifts itself. Or I decide to run for a bus, and the
next second my legs are moving. Or I’m thinking about something sad, and suddenly I’m crying. So
there must be some mysterious connection between body and consciousness.”
“That was exactly the problem that set Descartes’s thoughts going. Like Plato, he was convinced
that there was a sharp division between ‘spirit’ and ‘matter.’ But as to how the mind influences the
body—or the soul the body—Plato could not provide an answer.”
“Neither have I, so I am looking forward to hearing what Descartes’s theory was.”
“Let us follow his own line of reasoning.”
Albert pointed to the book that lay on the table between them.
“In his Discourse on Method, Descartes raises the question of the method the philosopher must use
to solve a philosophical problem. Science already had its new method...”
“So you said.”
“Descartes maintains that we cannot accept anything as being true unless we can clearly and
distinctly perceive it. To achieve this can require the breaking down of a compound problem into as
many single factors as possible. Then we can take our point of departure in the simplest idea of all. You
could say that every single thought must be weighed and measured, rather in the way Galileo wanted
everything to be measured and everything immeasurable to be made measurable. Descartes believed that
philosophy should go from the simple to the complex. Only then would it be possible to construct a new
insight. And finally it would be necessary to ensure by constant enumeration and control that nothing
was left out. Then, a philosophical conclusion would be within reach.”
“It sounds almost like a math test.”
“Yes. Descartes was a mathematician; he is considered the father of analytical geometry, and he
made important contributions to the science of algebra. Descartes wanted to use the ‘mathematical
method’ even for philosophizing. He set out to prove philosophical truths in the way one proves a
mathematical theorem. In other words, he wanted to use exactly the same instrument that we use when
we work with figures, namely, reason, since only reason can give us certainty. It is far from certain that
we can rely on our senses. We have already noted Descartes’s affinity with Plato, who also observed
that mathematics and numerical ratio give us more certainty than the evidence of our senses.”
“But can one solve philosophical problems that way?”
“We had better go back to Descartes’s own reasoning. His aim is to reach certainty about the
nature of life, and he starts by maintaining that at first one should doubt everything. He didn’t want to
build on sand, you see.”
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“No, because if the foundations give way, the whole house collapses.”
“As you so neatly put it, my child. Now, Descartes did not think it reasonable to doubt everything,
but he thought it was possible in principle to doubt everything. For one thing, it is by no means certain
that we advance our philosophical quest by reading Plato or Aristotle. It may increase our knowledge of
history but not of the world. It was important for Descartes to rid himself of all handed down, or
received, learning before beginning his own philosophical construction.”
“He wanted to clear all the rubble off the site before starting to build his new house ...”
“Thank you. He wanted to use only fresh new materials in order to be sure that his new thought
construction would hold. But Descartes’s doubts went even deeper. We cannot even trust what our
senses tell us, he said. Maybe they are deceiving us.”
“How come?”
“When we dream, we feel we are experiencing reality. What separates our waking feelings from
our dream feelings?
“ ‘When I consider this carefully, I find not a single property which with certainty separates the
waking state from the dream,’ writes Descartes. And he goes on: ‘How can you be certain that your
whole life is not a dream?’ “
“Jeppe thought he had only been dreaming when he had slept in the Baron’s bed.”
“And when he was lying in the Baron’s bed, he thought his life as a poor peasant was only a
dream. So in the same way, Descartes ends up doubting absolutely everything. Many philosophers
before him had reached the end of the road at that very point.”
“So they didn’t get very far.”
“But Descartes tried to work forward from this zero point. He doubted everything, and that was
the only thing he was certain of. But now something struck him: one thing had to be true, and that was
that he doubted. When he doubted, he had to be thinking, and because he was thinking, it had to be
certain that he was a thinking being. Or, as he himself expressed it: Cogito, ergo sum.”
“Which means?”
“I think, therefore I am.”
“I’m not surprised he realized that.”
“Fair enough. But notice the intuitive certainty with which he suddenly perceives himself as a
thinking being. Perhaps you now recall what Plato said, that what we grasp with our reason is more real
than what we grasp with our senses. That’s the way it was for Descartes. He perceived not only that he
was a thinking /, he realized at the same time that this thinking / was more real than the material world
which we perceive with our senses. And he went on. He was by no means through with his
philosophical quest.”
“What came next?”
“Descartes now asked himself if there was anything more he could perceive with the same
intuitive certainty.
He came to the conclusion that in his mind he had a clear and distinct idea of a perfect entity. This
was an idea he had always had, and it was thus self-evident to Descartes that such an idea could not
possibly have come from himself. The idea of a perfect entity cannot have originated from one who was
himself imperfect, he claimed. Therefore the idea of a perfect entity must have originated from that
perfect entity itself, or in other words, from God. That God exists was therefore just as self-evident for
Descartes as that a thinking being must exist.”
“Now he was jumping to a conclusion. He was more cautious to begin with.”
“You’re right. Many people have called that his weak spot. But you say ‘conclusion.’ Actually it
was not a question of proof. Descartes only meant that we all possess the idea of a perfect entity, and
that inherent in that idea is the fact that this perfect entity must exist. Because a perfect entity wouldn’t
be perfect if it didn’t exist. Neither would we possess the idea of a perfect entity if there were no perfect
entity. For we are imperfect, so the idea of perfection cannot come from us. According to Descartes, the
idea of God is innate, it is stamped on us from birth ‘like the artisan’s mark stamped on his product.’ “
“Yes, but just because I possess the idea of a crocophant doesn’t mean that the crocophant exists.”
“Descartes would have said that it is not inherent in the concept of a crocophant that it exists. On
the other hand, it is inherent in the concept of a perfect entity that such an entity exists. According to
Descartes, this is just as certain as it is inherent in the idea of a circle that all points of the circle are
equidistant from the center. You cannot have a circle that does not conform to this law. Nor can you
have a perfect entity that lacks its most important property, namely, existence.”
“That’s an odd way of thinking.”
“It is a decidedly rationalistic way of thinking. Descartes believed like Socrates and Plato that
there is a connection between reason and being. The more self-evident a thing is to one’s reason, the
more certain it is that it exists.”
“So far he has gotten to the fact that he is a thinking person and that there exists a perfect entity.”
“Yes, and with this as his point of departure, he proceeds. In the question of all the ideas we have
about outer reality—for example, the sun and the moon—there is the possibility that they are fantasies.
But outer reality also has certain characteristics that we can perceive with our reason. These are the
mathematical properties, or, in other words, the kinds of things that are measurable, such as length,
breadth, and depth. Such ‘quantitative’ properties are just as clear and distinct to my reason as the fact
that I am a thinking being. ‘Qualitative’ properties such as color, smell, and taste, on the other hand, are
linked to our sense perception and as such do not describe outer reality.”
“So nature is not a dream after all.”
“No, and on that point Descartes once again draws upon our idea of the perfect entity. When our
reason recognizes something clearly and distinctly—as is the case for the mathematical properties of
outer reality—it must necessarily be so. Because a perfect God would not deceive us. Descartes claims
‘God’s guarantee’ that whatever we perceive with our reason also corresponds to reality.”
“Okay, so now he’s found out he’s a thinking being, God exists, and there is an outer reality.”
“Ah, but the outer reality is essentially different from the reality of thought. Descartes now
maintains that there are two different forms of reality—or two ‘substances.’ One substance is thought, or
the ‘mind,’ the other is extension, or matter. The mind is purely conscious, it takes up no room in space
and can therefore not be subdivided into smaller parts. Matter, however, is purely extension, it takes up
room in space and can therefore always be subdivided into smaller and smaller parts— but it has no
consciousness. Descartes maintained that both substances originate from God, because only God himself
exists independently of anything else. But although both thought and extension come from God, the two
substances have no contact with each other. Thought is quite independent of matter, and conversely, the
material processes are quite independent of thought.”
“So he divided God’s creation into two.”
“Precisely. We say that Descartes is a dualist, which means that he effects a sharp division
between the reality of thought and extended reality. For example, only man has a mind. Animals belong
completely to extended reality. Their living and moving are accomplished mechanically. Descartes
considered an animal to be a kind of complicated automaton. As regards extended reality, he takes a
thoroughly mechanistic view—exactly like the materialists.”
“I doubt very much that Hermes is a machine or an automaton. Descartes couldn’t have liked
animals very much. And what about us? Are we automatons as well?”
“We are and we aren’t. Descartes came to the conclusion that man is a dual creature that both
thinks and takes up room in space. Man has thus both a mind and an extended body. St. Augustine and
Thomas Aquinas had already said something similar, namely, that man had a body like the animals and
a soul like the angels. According to Descartes, the human body is a perfect machine. But man also has a
mind which can operate quite independently of the body. The bodily processes do not have the same
freedom, they obey their own laws. But what we think with our reason does not happen in the body—it
happens in the mind, which is completely independent of extended reality. I should add, by the way, that
Descartes did not reject the possibility that animals could think. But if they have that faculty, the same
dualism between thought and extension must also apply to them.”
“We have talked about this before. If I decide to run after a bus, the whole ‘automaton’ goes into
action. And if I don’t catch the bus, I start to cry.”
“Even Descartes could not deny that there is a constant interaction between mind and body. As
long as the mind is in the body, he believed, it is linked to the brain through a special brain organ which
he called the pineal gland, where a constant interaction takes place between ‘spirit’ and ‘matter.’
Therefore the mind can constantly be affected by feelings and passions that are related to bodily needs.
But the mind can also detach itself from such ‘base’ impulses and operate independently of the body.
The aim is to get reason to assume command. Because even if I have the worst pain in my stomach, the
sum of the angles in a triangle will still be 180 degrees. Thus humans have the capacity to rise above
bodily needs and behave rationally. In this sense the mind is superior to the body. Our legs can age and
become weak, the back can become bowed and our teeth can fall out—but two and two will go on being
four as long as there is reason left in us. Reason doesn’t become bowed and weak. It is the body that
ages. For Descartes, the mind is essentially thought. Baser passions and feelings such as desire and hate
are more closely linked to our bodily functions—and therefore to extended reality.”
“I can’t get over the fact that Descartes compared the human body to a machine or an automaton.”
“The comparison was based on the fact that people in his time were deeply fascinated by machines
and the workings of clocks, which appeared to have the ability to function of their own accord. The
word ‘automaton’ means precisely that—something that moves of its own accord. It was obviously only
an illusion that they moved of their own accord. An astronomical clock, for instance, is both constructed
and wound up by human hands. Descartes made a point of the fact that ingenious inventions of that kind
were actually assembled very simply from a relatively small number of parts compared with the vast
number of bones, muscles, nerves, veins, and arteries that the human and the animal body consists of.
Why should God not be able to make an animal or a human body based on mechanical laws?”
“Nowadays there is a lot of talk about ‘artificial intelligence.’ “
“Yes, that is the automaton of our time. We have created machines that can sometimes deceive us
into believing that they are intelligent. Machines like these would have terrified Descartes out of his
wits. He might have begun to doubt whether human reason really was as free and independent as he had
supposed. And there are philosophers who believe that man’s spiritual life is no more free than the
bodily processes. The human soul is naturally infinitely more complex than any data program, but some
people think that in principle we are just as unfree as these data programs. But look, Sophie—I’ll show
you something.”
Alberto pointed to a large writing table at the other end of the room. On it stood a small computer.
He went over to it. Sophie followed him.
Alberto switched the computer on and soon the screen showed C: at the top. He wrote “Laila,”
explaining that this was an advanced conversation program.
A text soon appeared at the top of the screen:
“Hi, my name is Laila. Are you sitting comfortably?”
Sophie entered three letters:
“Yes,” she wrote although she had not yet sat down. Alberto brought up a chair for her.
“What is your name?” appeared on the screen.
“Sophie Amundsen,” wrote Sophie, and the computer answered:
“3 Clover Close. Nice to meet you, Sophie. Are you looking forward to your fifteenth birthday?”
Sophie was startled. Alberto laid a hand on her shoulder and said: “I have only given her your
name, your address, and your date of birth. It’s like when you are going to be introduced to a new friend.
It’s nice to know a little about them beforehand.”
“Not bad,” wrote Sophie.
“Oh dear, I hope you are not feeling bad, Sophie. You must try to talk in whole sentences.”
“Thank you, I’m perfectly well. Can I ask you something?”
“I am glad you are well. Go ahead and ask me something.”
“How old are you?” Sophie wrote.
“I was constructed in Atlanta on August 8, 1988, but I was translated into Norwegian at the
Norwegian Polytechnic on March 28, 1990.”
“Gosh!”
“I said you must talk in whole sentences.”
“I only said gosh!”
“I do not understand slang. I have a vocabulary of over 100,000 words, but the nearest I can find
to gosh is gospel.”
“That means the story of Jesus.”
“Are you a Christian, Sophie?”
“I don’t know.”
“As a rule not knowing is a step toward new knowledge.”
“Socrates would most likely have said the same. Or Descartes, for that matter.”
“Socrates was a Greek philosopher who lived from 470 to 399 B.C. If you wish to know more,
press F7. Descartes was a French philosopher who lived from 1596 to 1650. If you wish to know more,
press F7.”
“Thank you, that will be quite enough. Can I ask you something else?”
“I am glad that this was enough. Go ahead and ask!”
Alberto laughed quietly. Sophie wrote:
“Who is Hilde Moller Knag?”
“Hilde Moller Knag lives in Lillesand and is exactly the same age as Sophie Amundsen.”
“How do you know?”
“I don’t know how. I found her on the hard disc.”
Sophie felt a hand on her shoulder.
“I have fed the data program with the little information we have about Hilde,” said Alberto.
“What else do you know about Hilde?” wrote Sophie.
“Hilde’s father is a UN Observer in Lebanon. He has the rank of major and continually sends
postcards to his daughter.”
“I want you to find him!”
“I can’t do that. He is not on any of my files and I am not coupled to any other data base.”
“I said find him!!!!!!!!”
“Are you angry, Sophie? So many exclamation marks are a sign of violent feelings.”
“I want to talk to Hilde’s father!”
“You have difficulty controlling yourself. If you wish to talk about your childhood, press F9.”
Alberto laid his hand on Sophie’s shoulder again.
“She’s right. This is not a crystal ball. Laila is only a data program.”
“Shut up!” wrote Sophie.
“As you wish, Sophie. Our acquaintance lasted only 13 minutes and 52 seconds. I shall remember
everything we have said. I shall now end the program.”
The letter C: once again showed up on the screen.
“Now we can sit down again,” said Alberto.
But Sophie had already pressed some other keys.
“Knag,” she wrote.
Immediately the following message appeared on the screen:
“Here I am.”
Now it was Alberto who jumped.
“Who are you?” wrote Sophie.
“Major Albert Knag at your service. I came straight from Lebanon. What is your command?”
“This beats everything!” breathed Alberto. “The rat has sneaked onto the hard disc.”
He motioned for Sophie to move and sat down in front of the keyboard.
“How did you manage to get into my PC?” he wrote.
“A mere bagatelle, dear colleague. I am exactly where I choose to be.”
“You loathsome data virus!”
“Now, now! At the moment I am here as a birthday virus. May I send a special greeting?”
“No thanks, we’ve had enough of them.”
“But I’ll be quick: all in your honor, dear Hilde. Once again, a very happy fifteenth birthday.
Please excuse the circumstances, but I wanted my birthday greetings to spring up around you
everywhere you go. Love from Dad, who is longing to give you a great big hug.”
Before Alberto could write again, the sign C: had once again appeared on the screen.
Alberto wrote “dir knag*.*,” which called up the following information on the screen:
knag.lib 147,643 06-15-90 12:47
knag.lil 326,439 06-23-90 22:34
Alberto wrote “erase knag*.*” and switched off the computer.
“There—now I have erased him,” he said. “But it’s impossible to say where he’ll turn up next
time.”
He went on sitting there, staring at the screen. Then he added:
“The worst of it all was the name. Albert Knag ...”
For the first time Sophie was struck by the similarity between the two names. Albert Knag and
Alberto Knox. But Alberto was so incensed that she dared not say a word. They went over and sat by the
coffee table again.
Spinoza
…God is not a puppeteer…
They sat silently for a long time. Then Sophie spoke, trying to get Alberto’s mind off what had
happened.
“Descartes must have been an odd kind of person. Did he become famous?”
Alberto breathed deeply for a couple of seconds before answering: “He had a great deal of
significance. Perhaps most of all for another great philosopher, Ba-ruch Spinoza, who lived from 1632
to 1677.”
“Are you going to tell me about him?”
“That was my intention. And we’re not going to be stopped by military provocations.”
“I’m all ears.”
“Spinoza belonged to the Jewish community of Amsterdam, but he was excommunicated for
heresy. Few philosophers in more recent times have been so blasphemed and so persecuted for their
ideas as this man. It happened because he criticized the established religion. He believed that
Christianity and Judaism were only kept alive by rigid dogma and outer ritual. He was the first to apply
what we call a historico-critical interpretation of the Bible.”
“Explanation, please.”
“He denied that the Bible was inspired by God down to the last letter. When we read the Bible, he
said, we must continually bear in mind the period it was written in. A ‘critical’ reading, such as the one
he proposed, revealed a number of inconsistencies in the texts. But beneath the surface of the Scriptures
in the New Testament is Jesus, who could well be called God’s mouthpiece. The teachings of Jesus
therefore represented a liberation from the orthodoxy of Judaism. Jesus preached a ‘religion of reason’
which valued love higher than all else. Spinoza interpreted this as meaning both love of God and love of
humanity. Nevertheless, Christianity had also become set in its own rigid dogmas and outer rituals.”
“I don’t suppose these ideas were easy to swallow, either for the church or the synagogue.”
“When things got really tough, Spinoza was even deserted by his own family. They tried to
disinherit him on the grounds of his heresy. Paradoxically enough, few have spoken out more
powerfully in the cause of free speech and religious tolerance than Spinoza. The opposition he was met
with on all sides led him to pursue a quiet and secluded life devoted entirely to philosophy. He earned a
meager living by polishing lenses, some of which have come into my possession.”
“Very impressive!”
“There is almost something symbolic in the fact that he lived by polishing lenses. A philosopher
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قدیمی ۲۷ آبان ۱۳۹۰, ۰۲:۴۱ بعد از ظهر   #28 (لینک مستقیم)
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must help people to see life in a new perspective. One of the pillars of Spinoza’s philosophy was
indeed to see things from the perspective of eternity.”
“The perspective of eternity?”
“Yes, Sophie. Do you think you can imagine your own life in a cosmic context? You’ll have to try
and imagine yourself and your life here and now ...”
“Hm ... that’s not so easy.”
“Remind yourself that you are only living a minuscule part of all nature’s life. You are part of an
enormous whole.”
“I think I see what you mean ...”
“Can you manage to feel it as well? Can you perceive all of nature at one time—the whole
universe, in fact—at a single glance?”
“I doubt it. Maybe I need some lenses.”
“I don’t mean only the infinity of space. I mean the eternity of time as well. Once upon a time,
thirty thousand years ago there lived a little boy in the Rhine valley. He was a tiny part of nature, a tiny
ripple on an endless sea. You too, Sophie, you too are living a tiny part of nature’s life. There is no
difference between you and that boy.”
“Except that I’m alive now.”
“Yes, but that is precisely what I wanted you to try and imagine. Who will you be in thirty
thousand years?”
“Was that the heresy?”
“Not entirely ... Spinoza didn’t only say that everything is nature. He identified nature with God.
He said God is all, and all is in God.”
“So he was a pantheist.”
“That’s true. To Spinoza, God did not create the world in order to stand outside it. No, God is the
world. Sometimes Spinoza expresses it differently. He maintains that the world is in God. In this, he is
quoting St. Paul’s speech to the Athenians on the Areopagos hill: ‘In him we live and move and have
our being.’ But let us pursue Spinoza’s own reasoning. His most important book was his Ethics
Geometrically Demonstrated.”
“Ethics—geometrically demonstrated?”
“It may sound a bit strange to us. In philosophy, ethics means the study of moral conduct for living
a good life. This is also what we mean when we speak of the ethics of Socrates or Aristotle, for example.
It is only in our own time that ethics has more or less become reduced to a set of rules for living without
treading on other people’s toes.”
“Because thinking of yourself is supposed to be egoism?”
“Something like that, yes. When Spinoza uses the word ethics, he means both the art of living and
moral conduct.”
“But even so ... the art of living demonstrated geometrically?”
“The geometrical method refers to the terminology he used for his formulations. You may recall
how Descartes wished to use mathematical method for philosophical reflection. By this he meant a form
of philosophic reflection that was constructed from strictly logical conclusions. Spinoza was part of the
same rationalistic tradition. He wanted his ethics to show that human life is subject to the universal laws
of nature. We must therefore free ourselves from our feelings and our passions. Only then will we find
contentment and be happy, he believed.”
“Surely we are not ruled exclusively by the laws of nature?”
“Well, Spinoza is not an easy philosopher to grasp. Let’s take him bit by bit. You remember that
Descartes believed that reality consisted of two completely separate substances, namely thought and
extension.”
“How could I have forgotten it?”
“The word ‘substance’ can be interpreted as ‘that which something consists of,’ or that which
something basically is or can be reduced to. Descartes operated then with two of these substances.
Everything was either thought or extension.
“However, Spinoza rejected this split. He believed that there was only one substance. Everything
that exists can be reduced to one single reality which he simply called Substance. At times he calls it
God or nature. Thus Spinoza does not have the dualistic view of reality that Descartes had. We say he is
a monist. That is, he reduces nature and the condition of all things to one single substance.”
“They could hardly have disagreed more.”
“Ah, but the difference between Descartes and Spinoza is not as deep-seated as many have often
claimed. Descartes also pointed out that only God exists independently. It’s only when Spinoza
identifies God with nature—or God and creation—that he distances himself a good way from both
Descartes and from the Jewish and Christian doctrines.”
“So then nature is God, and that’s that.”
“But when Spinoza uses the word ‘nature,’ he doesn’t only mean extended nature. By Substance,
God, or nature, he means everything that exists, including all things spiritual.”
“You mean both thought and extension.”
“You said it! According to Spinoza, we humans recognize two of God’s qualities or
manifestations. Spinoza called these qualities God’s attributes, and these two attributes are identical with
Descartes’s ‘thought’ and ‘extension.’ God—or nature—manifests itself either as thought or as
extension. It may well be that God has infinitely more attributes than ‘thought’ and ‘extension,’ but
these are the only two that are known to man.”
“Fair enough, but what a complicated way of saying it.”
“Yes, one almost needs a hammer and chisel to get through Spinoza’s language. The reward is that
in the end you dig out a thought as crystal clear as a diamond.”
“I can hardly wait!”
“Everything in nature, then, is either thought or extension. The various phenomena we come
across in everyday life, such as a flower or a poem by Wordsworth, are different modes of the attribute
of thought or extension. A ‘mode’ is the particular manner which Substance, God, or nature assumes. A
flower is a mode of the attribute of extension, and a poem about the same flower is a mode of the
attribute of thought. But both are basically the expression of Substance, God, or nature.”
“You could have fooled me!”
“But it’s not as complicated as he makes it sound. Beneath his stringent formulation lies a
wonderful realization that is actually so simple that everyday language cannot accommodate it.”
“I think I prefer everyday language, if it’s all the same to you.”
“Right. Then I’d better begin with you yourself. When you get a pain in your stomach, what is it
that has a pain?”
“Like you just said. It’s me.”
“Fair enough. And when you later recollect that you once had a pain in your stomach, what is it
that thinks?”
“That’s me, too.”
“So you are a single person that has a stomachache one minute and is in a thoughtful mood the
next. Spinoza maintained that all material things and things that happen around us are an expression of
God or nature. So it follows that all thoughts that we think are also God’s or nature’s thoughts. For
everything is One. There is only one God, one nature, or one Substance.”
“But listen, when I think something, I’m the one who’s doing the thinking. When I move, I’m
doing the moving. Why do you have to mix God into it?”
“I like your involvement. But who are you? You are Sophie Amundsen, but you are also the
expression of something infinitely bigger. You can, if you wish, say that you are thinking or that you are
moving, but could you not also say that it is nature that is thinking your thoughts, or that it is nature that
is moving through you? It’s really just a question of which lenses you choose to look through.”
“Are you saying I cannot decide for myself?”
“Yes and no. You may have the right to move your thumb any way you choose. But your thumb
can only move according to its nature. It cannot jump off your hand and dance about the room. In the
same way you also have your place in the structure of existence, my dear. You are Sophie, but you are also a finger of God’s body.”
“So God decides everything I do?”
“Or nature, or the laws of nature. Spinoza believed that God—or the laws of nature—is the inner
cause of everything that happens. He is not an outer cause, since God speaks through the laws of nature
and only through them.”
“I’m not sure I can see the difference.”
“God is not a puppeteer who pulls all the strings, controlling everything that happens. A real
puppet master controls the puppets from outside and is therefore the ‘outer cause’ of the puppet’s
movements. But that is not the way God controls the world. God controls the world through natural
laws. So God—or nature—is the ‘inner cause’ of everything that happens. This means that everything in
the material world happens through necessity. Spinoza had a determinist view of the material, or natural,
world.”
“I think you said something like that before.”
“You’re probably thinking of the Stoics. They also claimed that everything happens out of
necessity. That was why it was important to meet every situation with ‘stoicism.’ Man should not get
carried away by his feelings. Briefly, that was also Spinoza’s ethics.”
“I see what you mean, but I still don’t like the idea that I don’t decide for myself.”
“Okay, let’s go back in time to the Stone Age boy who lived thirty thousand years ago. When he
grew up, he cast spears after wild animals, loved a woman who became the mother of his children, and
quite certainly worshipped the tribal gods. Do you really think he decided all that for himself?”
“I don’t know.”
“Or think of a lion in Africa. Do you think it makes up its mind to be a beast of prey? Is that why
it attacks a limping antelope? Could it instead have made up its mind to be a vegetarian?”
“No, a lion obeys its nature.”
“You mean, the laws of nature. So do you, Sophie, because you are also part of nature. You could
of course protest, with the support of Descartes, that a lion is an animal and not a free human being with
free mental faculties. But think of a newborn baby that screams and yells. If it doesn’t get milk it sucks
its thumb. Does that baby have a free will?”
“I guess not.”
“When does the child get its free will, then? At the age of two, she runs around and points at
everything in sight. At the age of three she nags her mother, and at the age of four she suddenly gets
afraid of the dark. Where’s the freedom, Sophie?”
“I don’t know.”
“When she is fifteen, she sits in front of a mirror experimenting with makeup. Is this the moment
when she makes her own personal decisions and does what she likes?”
“I see what you’re getting at.”
“She is Sophie Amundsen, certainly. But she also lives according to the laws of nature. The point
is that she doesn’t realize it because there are so many complex reasons for everything she does.”
“I don’t think I want to hear any more.”
“But you must just answer a last question. Two equally old trees are growing in a large garden.
One of the trees grows in a sunny spot and has plenty of good soil and water. The other tree grows in
poor soil in a dark spot. Which of the trees do you think is bigger? And which of them bears more
fruit?”
“Obviously the tree with the best conditions for growing.”
“According to Spinoza, this tree is free. It has its full freedom to develop its inherent abilities. But
if it is an apple tree it will not have the ability to bear pears or plums. The same applies to us humans.
We can be hindered in our development and our personal growth by political conditions, for instance.
Outer circumstances can constrain us. Only when we are free to develop our innate abilities can we live
as free beings. But we are just as much determined by inner potential and outer opportunities as the
Stone Age boy on the Rhine, the lion in Africa, or the apple tree in the garden.”
“Okay, I give in, almost.”
“Spinoza emphasizes that there is only one being which is totally and utterly ‘its own cause’ and
can act with complete freedom. Only God or nature is the expression of such a free and ‘nonaccidental’
process. Man can strive for freedom in order to live without outer constraint, but he will never achieve
‘free will.’ We do not control everything that happens in our body—which is a mode of the attribute of
extension. Neither do we ‘choose’ our thinking. Man therefore does not have a ‘free soul’; it is more or
less imprisoned in a mechanical body.”
“That is rather hard to understand.”
“Spinoza said that it was our passions—such as ambition and lust—which prevent us from
achieving true happiness and harmony, but that if we recognize that everything happens from necessity,
we can achieve an intuitive understanding of nature as a whole. We can come to realize with crystal
clarity that everything is related, even that everything is One. The goal is to comprehend everything that
exists in an all-embracing perception. Only then will we achieve true happiness and contentment. This
was what Spinoza called seeing everything ‘sub specie aeternitatis.’ “
“Which means what?”
“To see everything from the perspective of eternity. Wasn’t that where we started?”
“It’ll have to be where we end, too. I must get going.”
Alberto got up and fetched a large fruit dish from the book shelves. He set it on the coffee table.
“Won’t you at least have a piece of fruit before you go?”
Sophie helped herself to a banana. Alberto took a green apple.
She broke off the top of the banana and began to peel it.
“There’s something written here,” she said suddenly.
“Where?”
“Here—inside the banana peel. It looks as if it was written with an ink brush.”
Sophie leaned over and showed Alberto the banana. He read aloud:
Here I am again, Hilde. I’m everywhere. Happy birthday!
“Very funny,” said Sophie.
“He gets more crafty all the time.”
“But it’s impossible ... isn’t it? Do you know if they grow bananas in Lebanon?”
Alberto shook his head.
“I’m certainly not going to eat that.”
“Leave it then. Someone who writes birthday greetings to his daughter on the inside of an
unpeeled banana must be mentally disturbed. But he must also be quite ingenious.”
“Yes, both.”
“So shall we establish here and now that Hilde has an ingenious father? In other words, he’s not so
stupid.”
“That’s what I’ve been telling you. And it could just as well be him that made you call me Hilde
last time I came here. Maybe he’s the one putting all the words in our mouths.”
“Nothing can be ruled out. But we should doubt everything.”
“For all we know, our entire life could be a dream.”
“But let’s not jump to conclusions. There could be a simpler explanation.”
“Well whatever, I have to hurry home. My mom is waiting for me.”
Alberto saw her to the door. As she left, he said:
“We’ll meet again, dear Hilde.”
Then the door closed behind her.
LOCKE
…as hare and empty as a blackboard before the teacher arrives…
Sophie arrived home at eight-thirty. That was one and a half hours after the agreement—which
was not really an agreement. She had simply skipped dinner and left a message for her mother that she would be back not later than seven.
“This has got to stop, Sophie. I had to call information and ask if they had any record of anyone
named Alberto in the Old Town. They laughed at me.”
“I couldn’t get away. I think we’re just about to make a breakthrough in a huge mystery.”
“Nonsense!”
“It’s true!”
“Did you invite him to your party?”
“Oh no, I forgot.”
“Well, now I insist on meeting him. Tomorrow at the latest. It’s not natural for a young girl to be
meeting an older man like this.”
“You’ve got no reason to be scared of Alberto. It may be worse with Hilde’s father.”
“Who’s Hilde?”
“The daughter of the man in Lebanon. He’s really bad. He may be controlling the whole world.”
“If you don’t immediately introduce me to your Alberto, I won’t allow you to see him again. I
won’t feel easy about him until I at least know what he looks like.”
Sophie had a brilliant idea and dashed up to her room.
“What’s the matter with you now?” her mother called after her.
In a flash Sophie was back again.
“In a minute you’ll see what he looks like. And then I hope you’ll let me be.”
She waved the video cassette and went over to the VCR.
“Did he give you a video?”
“From Athens...”
Pictures of the Acropolis soon appeared on the screen. Her mother sat dumbfounded as Alberto
came forward and began to speak directly to Sophie.
Sophie now noticed something she had forgotten about. The Acropolis was crowded with tourists
milling about in their respective groups. A small placard was being held up from the middle of one
group. On it was written HILDE ... Alberto continued his wandering on the Acropolis. After a while he
went down through the entrance and climbed to the Areopagos hill where Paul had addressed the
Athenians. Then he went on to talk to Sophie from the square.
Her mother sat commenting on the video in short utterances:
“Incredible... is that Alberto? He mentioned the rabbit again... But, yes, he’s really talking to you,
Sophie. I didn’t know Paul went to Athens ...”
The video was coming to the part where ancient Athens suddenly rises from the ruins. At the last
minute Sophie managed to stop the tape. Now that she had shown her mother Alberto, there was no need
to introduce her to Plato as well.
There was silence in the room.
“What do you think of him? He’s quite good-looking, isn’t he?” teased Sophie.
“What a strange man he must be, having himself filmed in Athens just so he could send it to a girl
he hardly knows. When was he in Athens?”
“I haven’t a clue.”
“But there’s something else ...”
“What?”
“He looks very much like the major who lived in that little hut in the woods.”
“Well maybe it is him, Mom.”
“But nobody has seen him for over fifteen years.”
“He probably moved around a lot... to Athens, maybe.”
Her mother shook her head. “When I saw him sometime in the seventies, he wasn’t a day younger
than this Alberto I just saw. He had a foreign-sounding name...”
“Knox?”
“Could be, Sophie. Could be his name was Knox.”
“Or was it Knag?”
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قدیمی ۲۷ آبان ۱۳۹۰, ۰۲:۴۳ بعد از ظهر   #29 (لینک مستقیم)
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“I can’t for the life of me remember ... Which Knox or Knag are you talking about?”
“One is Alberto, the other is Hilde’s father.”
“It’s all making me dizzy.”
“Is there any food in the house?”
“You can warm up the meatballs.”
Exactly two weeks went by without Sophie hearing a word from Alberto. She got another birthday
card for Hilde, but although the actual day was approaching, she did not receive a single birthday card
herself.
One afternoon she went to the Old Town and knocked on Alberto’s door. He was out, but there
was a short note attached to his door. It said:
Happy birthday, Hilde! Now the great turning point is at hand. The moment of truth, little one.
Every time I think about it, I can’t stop laughing. It has naturally something to do with Berkeley, so hold
on to your hat.
Sophie tore the note off the door and stuffed it into Alberto’s mailbox as she went out.
Damn! Surely he’d not gone back to Athens? How could he leave her with so many questions
unanswered?
When she got home from school on June 14, Hermes was romping about in the garden. Sophie ran
toward him and he came prancing happily toward her. She put her arms around him as if he were the one
who could solve all the riddles.
Again she left a note for her mother, but this time she put Alberto’s address on it.
As they made their way across town Sophie thought about tomorrow. Not about her own birthday
so much— that was not going to be celebrated until Midsummer Eve anyway. But tomorrow was
Hilde’s birthday too. Sophie was convinced something quite extraordinary would happen. At least there
would be an end to all those birthday cards from Lebanon.
When they had crossed Main Square and were making for the Old Town, they passed by a park
with a playground. Hermes stopped by a bench as if he wanted Sophie to sit down.
She did, and while she patted the dog’s head she looked into his eyes. Suddenly the dog started to
shudder violently. He’s going to bark now, thought Sophie.
Then his jaws began to vibrate, but Hermes neither growled nor barked. He opened his mouth and
said:
“Happy birthday, Hilde!”
Sophie was speechless. Did the dog just talk to her? Impossible, she must have imagined it
because she was thinking of Hilde. But deep down she was nevertheless convinced that Hermes had
spoken, and in a deep resonant bass voice.
The next second everything was as before. Hermes gave a couple of demonstrative barks—as if to
cover up the fact that he had just spoken with a human voice— and trotted on ahead toward Alberto’s
place. As they were going inside Sophie looked up at the sky. It had been fine weather all day but now
heavy clouds were beginning to gather in the distance.
Alberto opened the door and Sophie said at once:
“No civilities, please. You are a great idiot, and you know it.”
“What’s the matter now?”
“The major taught Hermes to talk!”
“Ah, so it has come to that.”
“Yes, imagine!”
“And what did he say?”
“I’ll give you three guesses.”
“I imagine he said something along the lines of Happy Birthday!”
“Bingo.”
Alberto let Sophie in. He was dressed in yet another costume. It wasn’t all that different from last
time, but today there were hardly any braidings, bows, or lace.
“But that’s not all,” Sophie said.
“What do you mean?”
“Didn’t you find the note in the mailbox?”
“Oh, that. I threw it away at once.”
“I don’t care if he laughs every time he thinks of Berkeley. But what is so funny about that
particular philosopher?”
“We’ll have to wait and see.”
“But today is the day you’re going to talk about him, isn’t it?”
“Yes, today is the day.”
Alberto made himself comfortable on the sofa. Then he said:
“Last time we sat here I told you about Descartes and Spinoza. We agreed that they had one
important thing in common, namely, that they were both rationalists.”
“And a rationalist is someone who believes strongly in the importance of reason.”
“That’s right, a rationalist believes in reason as the primary source of knowledge, and he may also
believe that man has certain innate ideas that exist in the mind prior to all experience. And the clearer
such ideas may be, the more certain it is that they correspond to reality. You recall how Descartes had a
clear and distinct idea of a ‘perfect entity,’ on the basis of which he concluded that God exists.”
“I am not especially forgetful.”
“Rationalist thinking of this kind was typical for philosophy of the seventeenth century. It was also
firmly rooted in the Middle Ages, and we remember it from Plato and Socrates too. But in the eighteenth
century it was the object of an ever increasing in-depth criticism. A number of philosophers held that we
have absolutely nothing in the mind that we have not experienced through the senses. A view such as
this is called empiricism.”
“And you are going to talk about them today, these empiricists?”
“I’m going to attempt to, yes. The most important empiricists—or philosophers of experience—
were Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, and all three were British. The leading rationalists in the seventeenth
century were Descartes, who was French; Spinoza, who was Dutch; and Leibniz, who was German. So
we usually make a distinction between British empiricism and Continental rationalism.”
“What a lot of difficult words! Could you repeat the meaning of empiricism?”
“An empiricist will derive all knowledge of the world from what the senses tell us. The classic
formulation of an empirical approach came from Aristotle. He said: ‘There is nothing in the mind except
what was first in the senses.’ This view implied a pointed criticism of Plato, who had held that man
brought with him a set of innate ‘ideas’ from the world of ideas. Locke repeats Aristotle’s words, and
when Locke uses them, they are aimed at Descartes.”
“There is nothing in the mind... except what was first in the senses?”
“We have no innate ideas or conceptions about the world we are brought into before we have seen
it. If we do have a conception or an idea that cannot be related to experienced facts, then it will be a false
conception. When we, for instance, use words like ‘God,”eternity,’ or ‘substance,’ reason is being
misused, because nobody has experienced God, eternity, or what philosophers have called substance. So
therefore many learned dissertations could be written which in actual fact contain no really new
conceptions. An ingeniously contrived philosophical system such as this may seem impressive, but it is
pure fantasy. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophers had inherited a number of such learned
dissertations. Now they had to be examined under a microscope. They had to be purified of all hollow
notions. We might compare it with panning for gold. Most of what you fish up is sand and clay, but in
between you see the glint of a particle of gold.”
“And that particle of gold is real experience?”
“Or at least thoughts that can be related to experience. It became a matter of great importance to
the British empiricists to scrutinize all human conceptions to see whether there was any basis for them in
actual experience. But let us take one philosopher at a time.”
“Okay, shoot!”
“The first was the Englishman John Locke, who lived from 1632 to 1704. His main work was the
Essay Concerning Human Understanding, published in 1690. In it he tried to clarify two questions. First, where we get our ideas from, and secondly, whether we can rely on what our senses tell us.”
“That was some project!”
“We’ll take these questions one at a time. Locke’s claim is that all our thoughts and ideas issue
from that which we have taken in through the senses. Before we perceive anything, the mind is a ‘tabula
rasa’—or an empty slate.”
“You can skip the Latin.”
“Before we sense anything, then, the mind is as bare and empty as a blackboard before the teacher
arrives in the classroom. Locke also compared the mind to an unfurnished room. But then we begin to
sense things. We see the world around us, we smell, taste, feel, and hear. And nobody does this more
intensely than infants. In this way what Locke called simple ideas of sense arise. But the mind does not
just passively receive information from outside it. Some activity happens in the mind as well. The single
sense ideas are worked on by thinking, reasoning, believing, and doubting, thus giving rise to what he
calls reflection. So he distinguished between ‘sensation’ and ‘reflection.’ The mind is not merely a
passive receiver. It classifies and processes all sensations as they come streaming in. And this is just
where one must be on guard.”
“On guard?”
“Locke emphasized that the only things we can perceive are simple sensations. When I eat an
apple, for example, I do not sense the whole apple in one single sensation. In actual fact I receive a
whole series of simple sensations—such as that something is green, smells fresh, and tastes juicy and
sharp. Only after I have eaten an apple many times do I think: Now I am eating an ‘apple.’ As Locke
would say, we have formed a complex idea of an ‘apple.’ When we were infants, tasting an apple for the
first time, we had no such complex idea. But we saw something green, we tasted something fresh and
juicy, yummy ... It was a bit sour too. Little by little we bundle many similar sensations together and
form concepts like ‘apple,”pear,”orange.’ But in the final analysis, all the material for our knowledge of
the world comes to us through sensations. Knowledge that cannot be traced back to a simple sensation is
therefore false knowledge and must consequently be rejected.”
“At any rate we can be sure that what we see, hear, smell, and taste are the way we sense it.”
“Both yes and no. And that brings us to the second question Locke tried to answer. He had first
answered the question of where we get our ideas from. Now he asked whether the world really is the
way we perceive it. This is not so obvious, you see, Sophie. We mustn’t jump to conclusions. That is the
only thing a real philosopher must never do.”
“I didn’t say a word.”
“Locke distinguished between what he called ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ qualities. And in this he
acknowledged his debt to the great philosophers before him— including Descartes.
“By primary qualities he meant extension, weight, motion and number, and so on. When it is a
question of qualities such as these, we can be certain that the senses reproduce them objectively. But we
also sense other qualities in things. We say that something is sweet or sour, green or red, hot or cold.
Locke calls these secondary qualities. Sensations like these—color, smell, taste, sound—do not
reproduce the real qualities that are inherent in the things themselves. They reproduce only the effect of
the outer reality on our senses.”
“Everyone to his own taste, in other words.”
“Exactly. Everyone can agree on the primary qualities like size and weight because they lie within
the objects themselves. But the secondary qualities like color and taste can vary from person to person
and from animal to animal, depending on the nature of the individual’s sensations.”
“When Joanna eats an orange, she gets a look on her face like when other people eat a lemon. She
can’t take more than one segment at a time. She says it tastes sour. I usually think the same orange is
nice and sweet.”
“And neither one of you is right or wrong. You are just describing how the orange affects your
senses. It’s the same with the sense of color. Maybe you don’t like a certain shade of red. But if Joanna
buys a dress in that color it might be wise to keep your opinion to yourself. You experience the color
differently, but it is neither pretty nor ugly.”
“But everyone can agree that an orange is round.”
“Yes, if you have a round orange, you can’t ‘think’ it is square. You can ‘think’ it is sweet or sour,
but you can’t ‘think’ it weighs eight kilos if it only weighs two hundred grams. You can certainly
‘believe’ it weighs several kilos, but then you’d be way off the mark. If several people have to guess
how much something weighs, there will always be one of them who is more right than the others. The
same applies to number. Either there are 986 peas in the can or there are not. The same with motion.
Either the car is moving or it’s stationary.”
“I get it.”
“So when it was a question of ‘extended’ reality, Locke agreed with Descartes that it does have
certain qualities that man is able to understand with his reason.”
“It shouldn’t be so difficult to agree on that.”
“Locke admitted what he called intuitive, or ‘demonstrative,’ knowledge in other areas too. For
instance, he held that certain ethical principles applied to everyone. In other words, he believed in the
idea of a natural right, and that was a rationalistic feature of his thought. An equally rationalistic feature
was that Locke believed that it was inherent in human reason to be able to know that God exists.”
“Maybe he was right.”
“About what?”
“That God exists.”
“It is possible, of course. But he did not let it rest on faith. He believed that the idea of God was
born of human reason. That was a rationalistic feature. I should add that he spoke out for intellectual
liberty and tolerance. He was also preoccupied with equality of the sexes, maintaining that the
subjugation of women to men was ‘man-made.’ Therefore it could be altered.”
“I can’t disagree there.”
“Locke was one of the first philosophers in more recent times to be interested in sexual roles. He
had a great influence on John Stuart Mill, who in turn had a key role in the struggle for equality of the
sexes. All in all, Locke was a forerunner of many liberal ideas which later, during the period of the
French Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, came into full flower. It was he who first advocated the
principle of division of powers...”
“Isn’t that when the power of the state is divided between different institutions?”
“Do you remember which institutions?”
“There’s the legislative power, or elected representatives. There’s the judicial power, or law
courts, and then there’s the executive power, that’s the government.”
“This division of power originated from the French Enlightenment philosopher Montesquieu.
Locke had first and foremost emphasized that the legislative and the executive power must be separated
if tyranny was to be avoided. He lived at the time of Louis XIV, who had assembled all power in his
own hands. ‘I am the State,’ he said. We say he was an ‘absolute’ ruler. Nowadays we would call Louis
XIV’s rule lawless and arbitrary. Locke’s view was that to ensure a legal State, the people’s
representatives must make the laws and the king or the government must apply them.”
Hume
…commit it then to the flames…
Alberto sat staring down at the table. He finally turned and looked out of the window.
“It’s clouding over,” said Sophie.
“Yes, it’s muggy.”
“Are you going to talk about Berkeley now?”
“He was the next of the three British empiricists. But as he is in a category of his own in many
ways, we will first concentrate on David Hume, who lived from 1711 to 1776. He stands out as the most
important of the empiricists. He is also significant as the person who set the great philosopher Immanuel
Kant on the road to his philosophy.”
“Doesn’t it matter to you that I’m more interested in Berkeley’s philosophy?”
“That’s of no importance. Hume grew up near Edinburgh in Scotland. His family wanted him to
take up law but he felt ‘an insurmountable resistance to everything but philosophy and learning.’ He
lived in the Age of Enlightenment at the same time as great French thinkers like Voltaire and Rousseau,
and he traveled widely in Europe before returning to settle down in Edinburgh toward the end of his life.
His main work, A Treatise of Human Nature, was published when Hume was twenty-eight years old, but
he claimed that he got the idea for the book when he was only fifteen.”
“I see I don’t have any time to waste.”
“You have already begun.”
“But if I were going to formulate my own philosophy, it would be quite different from anything
I’ve heard up to now.”
“Is there anything in particular that’s missing?”
“Well, to start with, all the philosophers you have talked about are men. And men seem to live in a
world of their own. I am more interested in the real world, where there are flowers and animals and
children that are born and grow up. Your philosophers are always talking about ‘man’ and ‘humans,’
and now here’s another treatise on ‘human nature.’ It’s as if this ‘human’ is a middle-aged man. I mean,
life begins with pregnancy and birth, and I’ve heard nothing about diapers or crying babies so far. And
hardly anything about love and friendship.”
“You are right, of course. But Hume was a philosopher who thought in a different way. More than
any other philosopher, he took the everyday world as his starting point. I even think Hume had a strong
feeling for the way children—the new citizens of the world—experienced life.”
“I’d better listen then.”
“As an empiricist, Hume took it upon himself to clean up all the woolly concepts and thought
constructions that these male philosophers had invented. There were piles of old wreckage, both written
and spoken, from the Middle Ages and the rationalist philosophy of the seventeenth century. Hume
proposed the return to our spontaneous experience of the world. No philosopher ‘will ever be able to
take us behind the daily experiences or give us rules of conduct that are different from those we get
through reflections on everyday life,’ he said.”
“Sounds promising so far. Can you give any examples?”
“In the time of Hume there was a widespread belief in angels. That is, human figures with wings.
Have you ever seen such a creature, Sophie?”
“No.”
“But you have seen a human figure?”
“Dumb question.”
“You have also seen wings?”
“Of course, but not on a human figure.”
“So, according to Hume, an ‘angel’ is a complex idea. It consists of two different experiences
which are not in fact related, but which nevertheless are associated in man’s imagination. In other
words, it is a false idea which must be immediately rejected. We must tidy up all our thoughts and ideas,
as well as our book collections, in the same way. For as Hume put it: If we take in our hands any
volume ... let us ask, ‘Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?’ No. ‘Does
it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?’ No. Commit it then to
the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.”
“That was drastic.”
“But the world still exists. More fresh and sharply outlined than ever. Hume wanted to know how
a child experiences the world. Didn’t you say that many of the philosophers you have heard about lived
in their own world, and that you were more interested in the real world?”
“Something like that.”
“Hume could have said the same thing. But let us follow his train of thought more closely.”
“I’m with you.”
“Hume begins by establishing that man has two different types of perceptions, namely impressions
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and ideas. By ‘impressions’ he means the immediate sensation of external reality. By ‘ideas’ he
means the recollection of such impressions.”
“Could you give me an example?”
“If you burn yourself on a hot oven, you get an immediate ‘impression.’ Afterward you can
recollect that you burned yourself. That impression insofar as it is recalled is what Hume calls an ‘idea.’
The difference is that an impression is stronger and livelier than your reflective memory of that
impression. You could say that the sensation is the original and that the idea, or reflection, is only a pale
imitation. It is the impression which is the direct cause of the idea stored in the mind.”
“I follow you—so far.”
“Hume emphasizes further that both an impression and an idea can be either simple or complex.
You remember we talked about an apple in connection with Locke. The direct experience of an apple is
an example of a complex impression.”
“Sorry to interrupt, but is this terribly important?”
“Important? How can you ask? Even though philosophers may have been preoccupied with a
number of pseudoproblems, you mustn’t give up now over the construction of an argument. Hume
would probably agree with Descartes that it is essential to construct a thought process right from the
ground.”
“Okay, okay.”
“Hume’s point is that we sometimes form complex ideas for which there is no corresponding
object in the physical world. We’ve already talked about angels. Previously we referred to crocophants.
Another example is Pegasus, a winged horse. In all these cases we have to admit that the mind has done
a good job of cutting out and pasting together all on its own. Each element was once sensed, and entered
the theater of the mind in the form of a real ‘impression.’ Nothing is ever actually invented by the mind.
The mind puts things together and constructs false ‘ideas.’ “
“Yes, I see. That is important.”
“All right, then. Hume wanted to investigate every single idea to see whether it was compounded
in a way that does not correspond to reality. He asked: From which impression does this idea originate?
First of all he had to find out which ‘single ideas’ went into the making of a complex idea. This would
provide him with a critical method by which to analyze our ideas, and thus enable him to tidy up our
thoughts and notions.”
“Do you have an example or two?”
“In Hume’s day, there were a lot of people who had very clear ideas of ‘heaven’ or the ‘New
Jerusalem.’ You remember how Descartes indicated that ‘clear and distinct’ ideas in themselves could
be a guarantee that they corresponded to something that really existed?”
“I said I was not especially forgetful.”
“We soon realize that our idea of ‘heaven’ is compounded of a great many elements. Heaven is
made up of ‘pearly gates,”streets of gold,”angels’ by the score and so on and so forth. And still we have
not broken everything down into single elements, for pearly gates, streets of gold, and angels are all
complex ideas in themselves. Only when we recognize that our idea of heaven consists of single notions
such as ‘pearl,”gate,”street,”gold,”white-robed figure,’ and ‘wings’ can we ask ourselves if we ever
really had any such ‘simple impressions.’ “
“We did. But we cut out and pasted all these ‘simple impressions’ into one idea.”
“That’s just what we did. Because if there is something we humans do when we visualize, it’s use
scissors and paste. But Hume emphasizes that all the elements we put together in our ideas must at some
time have entered the mind in the form of ‘simple impressions.’ A person who has never seen gold will
never be able to visualize streets of gold.”
“He was very clever. What about Descartes having a clear and distinct idea of God?”
“Hume had an answer to that too. Let’s say we imagine God as an infinitely ‘intelligent, wise, and
good being.’ We have thus a ‘complex idea’ that consists of something infinitely intelligent, something
infinitely wise, and something infinitely good. If we had never known intelligence, wisdom, and
goodness, we would never have such an idea of God. Our idea of God might also be that he is a ‘severe but just Father’—that is to say, a concept made up of ‘severity’,’justice,’ and ‘father.’ Many critics
of religion since Hume have claimed that such ideas of God can be associated with how we experienced
our own father when we were little. It was said that the idea of a father led to the idea of a ‘heavenly
father.’ “
“Maybe that’s true, but I have never accepted that God had to be a man. Sometimes my mother
calls God ‘Godiva,’ just to even things up.”
“Anyway, Hume opposed all thoughts and ideas that could not be traced back to corresponding
sense perceptions. He said he wanted to ‘dismiss all this meaningless nonsense which long has
dominated metaphysical thought and brought it into disrepute.’
“But even in everyday life we use complex ideas without stopping to wonder whether they are
valid. For example, take the question of T—or the ego. This was the very basis of Descartes’s
philosophy. It was the one clear and distinct perception that the whole of his philosophy was built on.”
“I hope Hume didn’t try to deny that I am me. He’d be talking off the top of his head.”
“Sophie, if there is one thing I want this course to teach you, it’s not to jump to conclusions.”
“Sorry. Go on.”
“No, why don’t you use Hume’s method and analyze what you perceive as your ‘ego.’ “
“First I’d have to figure out whether the ego is a single or a complex idea.”
“And what conclusion do you come to?”
“I really have to admit that I feel quite complex. I’m very volatile, for instance. And I have trouble
making up my mind about things. And I can both like and dislike the same people.”
“In other words, the ‘ego concept’ is a ‘complex idea.’ “
“Okay. So now I guess I must figure out if I have had a corresponding ‘complex impression’ of
my own ego. And I guess I have. I always had, actually.”
“Does that worry you?”
“I’m very changeable. I’m not the same today as I was when I was four years old. My
temperament and how I see myself alter from one minute to the next. I can suddenly feel like I am a
‘new person.’ “
“So the feeling of having an unalterable ego is a false perception. The perception of the ego is in
reality a long chain of simple impressions that you have never experienced simultaneously. It is ‘nothing
but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed one another with an inconceivable
rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement,’ as Hume expressed it. The mind is ‘a kind of
theater, where several perceptions successively make their appearance; pass, re-pass, slide away, and
mingle in an infinite variety of postures and situations.’ Hume pointed out that we have no underlying
‘personal identity’ beneath or behind these perceptions and feelings which come and go. It is just like
the images on a movie screen. They change so rapidly we do not register that the film is made up of
single pictures. In reality the pictures are not connected. The film is a collection of instants.”
“I think I give in.”
“Does that mean you give up the idea of having an unalterable ego?”
“I guess it does.”
“A moment ago you believed the opposite. I should add that Hume’s analysis of the human mind
and his rejection of the unalterable ego was put forward almost 2,500 years earlier on the other side of
the world.”
“Who by?”
“By Buddha. It’s almost uncanny how similarly the two formulate their ideas. Buddha saw life as
an unbroken succession of mental and physical processes which keep people in a continual state of
change. The infant is not the same as the adult; I am not the same today as I was yesterday. There is
nothing of which I can say ‘this is mine,’ said Buddha, and nothing of which I can say ‘this is me.’
There is thus no T or unalterable ego.”
“Yes, that was typically Hume.”
“In continuation of the idea of an unalterable ego, many rationalists had taken it for granted that
man had an eternal soul.”
“Is that a false perception too?”
“According to Hume and Buddha, yes. Do you know what Buddha said to his followers just before
he died?”
“No, how could I?”
“ ‘Decay is inherent in all compound things. Work out your own salvation with diligence.’ Hume
could have said the same thing. Or Democritus, for that matter. We know at all events that Hume
rejected any attempt to prove the immortality of the soul or the existence of God. That does not mean
that he ruled out either one, but to prove religious faith by human reason was rationalistic claptrap, he
thought. Hume was not a Christian, neither was he a confirmed atheist. He was what we call an
agnostic.”
“What’s that?”
“An agnostic is someone who holds that the existence of God or a god can neither be proved nor
disproved. When Hume was dying a friend asked him if he believed in life after death. He is said to have
answered:
“It is also possible that a knob of coal placed upon the fire will not burn.”
“I see.”
“The answer was typical of his unconditional open-mindedness. He only accepted what he had
perceived through his senses. He held all other possibilities open. He rejected neither faith in
Christianity nor faith in miracles. But both were matters of faith and not of knowledge or reason. You
might say that with Hume’s philosophy, the final link between faith and knowledge was broken.”
“You say he didn’t deny that miracles can happen?”
“That didn’t mean that he believed in them, more the opposite. He made a point of the fact that
people seemed to have a powerful need of what we today would call ‘supernatural’ happenings. The
thing is that all the miracles you hear of have always happened in some far distant place or a long, long
time ago. Actually, Hume only rejected miracles because he had never experienced any. But he had not
experienced that they couldn’t happen either.”
“You’ll have to explain that.”
“According to Hume, a miracle is against the laws of nature. But it is meaningless to allege that
we have experienced the laws of nature. We experience that a stone falls to the ground when we let go
of it, and if it didn’t fall—well, then we experienced that.’1”
“I would say that was a miracle—or something supernatural.”
“So you believe there are two natures—a ‘natural’ and a ‘supernatural.’ Aren’t you on the way
back to the rationalistic claptrap?”
“Maybe, but I still think the stone will fall to the ground every time I let go.”
“Why?”
“Now you’re being horrible.”
“I’m not horrible, Sophie. It’s never wrong for a philosopher to ask questions. We may be getting
to the crux of Hume’s philosophy. Tell me how you can be so certain that the stone will always fall to
the earth.”
“I’ve seen it happen so many times that I’m absolutely certain.”
“Hume would say that you have experienced a stone falling to the ground many times. But you
have never experienced that it will always fall. It is usual to say that the stone falls to the ground because
of the law of gravitation. But we have never experienced such a law. We have only experienced that
things fall.”
“Isn’t that the same thing?”
“Not completely. You say you believe the stone will fall to the ground because you have seen it
happen so many times. That’s exactly Hume’s point. You are so used to the one thing following the
other that you expect the same to happen every time you let go of a stone. This is the way the concept of
what we like to call ‘the unbreakable laws of nature’ arises.”
“Did he really mean it was possible that a stone would not fall?”
“He was probably just as convinced as you that it would fall every time he tried it. But he pointed out that he had not experienced why it happens.”
“Now we’re far away from babies and flowers again!”
“No, on the contrary. You are welcome to take children as Hume’s verification. Who do you think
would be more surprised if the stone floated above the ground for an hour or two—you or a one-year-old
child?”
“I guess I would.”
“Why?”
“Because I would know better than the child how unnatural it was.”
“And why wouldn’t the child think it was unnatural?”
“Because it hasn’t yet learned how nature behaves.”
“Or perhaps because nature hasn’t yet become a habit?”
“I see where you’re coming from. Hume wanted people to sharpen their awareness.”
“So now do the following exercise: let’s say you and a small child go to a magic show, where
things are made to float in the air. Which of you would have the most fun?”
“I probably would.”
“And why would that be?”
“Because I would know how impossible it all is.”
“So... for the child it’s no fun to see the laws of nature being defied before it has learned what they
are.”
“I guess that’s right.”
“And we are still at the crux of Hume’s philosophy of experience. He would have added that the
child has not yet become a slave of the expectations of habit; he is thus the more open-minded of you
two. I wonder if the child is not also the greater philosopher? He comes utterly without preconceived
opinions. And that, my dear Sophie, is the philosopher’s most distinguishing virtue. The child perceives
the world as it is, without putting more into things than he experiences.”
“Every time I feel prejudice I get a bad feeling.”
“When Hume discusses the force of habit, he concentrates on ‘the law of causation.’ This law
establishes that everything that happens must have a cause. Hume used two billiard balls for his
example. If you roll a black billiard ball against a white one that is at rest, what will the white one do?”
“If the black ball hits the white one, the white one will start to move.”
“I see, and why will it do that?”
“Because it was hit by the black one.”
“So we usually say that the impact of the black ball is the cause of the white ball’s starting to
move. But remember now, we can only talk of what we have actually experienced.”
“I have actually experienced it lots of times. Joanna has a pool table in her basement.”
“Hume would say the only thing you have experienced is that the white ball begins to roll across
the table. You have not experienced the actual cause of it beginning to roll. You have experienced that
one event comes after the other, but you have not experienced that the other event happens because o/the
first one.”
“Isn’t that splitting hairs?”
“No, it’s very central. Hume emphasized that the expectation of one thing following another does
not lie in the things themselves, but in our mind. And expectation, as we have seen, is associated with
habit. Going back to the child again, it would not have stared in amazement if when one billiard ball
struck the other, both had remained perfectly motionless. When we speak of the ‘laws of nature’ or of
‘cause and effect,’ we are actually speaking of what we expect, rather than what is ‘reasonable.’ The
laws of nature are neither reasonable nor unreasonable, they simply are. The expectation that the white
billiard ball will move when it is struck by the black billiard ball is therefore not innate. We are not born
with a set of expectations as to what the world is like or how things in the world behave. The world is
like it is, and it’s something we get to know.”
“I’m beginning to feel as if we’re getting off the track again.”
“Not if our expectations cause us to jump to conclusions. Hume did not deny the existence of unbreakable ‘natural laws,’ but he held that because we are not in a position to experience the
natural laws themselves, we can easily come to the wrong conclusions.”
“Like what?”
“Well, because I have seen a whole herd of black horses doesn’t mean that all horses are black.”
“No, of course not.”
“And although I have seen nothing but black crows in my life, it doesn’t mean that there’s no such
thing as a white crow. Both for a philosopher and for a scientist it can be important not to reject the
possibility of finding a white crow. You might almost say that hunting for ‘the white crow’ is science’s
principal task.”
“Yes, I see.”
“In the question of cause and effect, there can be many people who imagine that lightning is the
cause of thunder because the thunder comes after the lightning. The example is really not so different
from the one with the billiard balls. But is lightning the cause of thunder?”
“Not really, because actually they both happen at the same time.”
“Both thunder and lightning are due to an electric discharge. So in reality a third factor causes
them both.”
“Right.”
“An empiricist of our own century, Bertrand Russell, has provided a more grotesque example. A
chicken which experiences every day that it gets fed when the farmer’s wife comes over to the chicken
run will finally come to the conclusion that there is a causal link between the approach of the farmer’s
wife and feed being put into its bowl.”
“But one day the chicken doesn’t get its food?”
“No, one day the farmer’s wife comes over and wrings the chicken’s neck.”
“Yuck, how disgusting!”
“The fact that one thing follows after another thus does not necessarily mean there is a causal link.
One of the main concerns of philosophy is to warn people against jumping to conclusions. It can in fact
lead to many different forms of superstition.”
“How come?”
“You see a black cat cross the street. Later that day you fall and break your arm. But that doesn’t
mean there is any causal link between the two incidents. In science, it is especially important not to
jump to conclusions. For instance, the fact that a lot of people get well after taking a particular drug
doesn’t mean it was the drug that cured them. That’s why it’s important to have a large control group of
patients who think they are also being given this same medicine, but who are in fact only being given
flour and water. If these patients also get well, there has to be a third factor—such as the belief that the
medicine works, and has cured them.”
“I think I’m beginning to see what empiricism is.”
“Hume also rebelled against rationalist thought in the area of ethics. The rationalists had always
held that the ability to distinguish between right and wrong is inherent in human reason. We have come
across this idea of a so-called natural right in many philosophers from Socrates to Locke. But according
to Hume, it is not reason that determines what we say and do.”
“What is it then?”
“It is our sentiments. If you decide to help someone in need, you do so because of your feelings,
not your reason.”
“What if I can’t be bothered to help?”
“That, too, would be a matter of feelings. It is neither reasonable nor unreasonable not to help
someone in need, but it could be unkind.”
“But there must be a limit somewhere. Everyone knows it’s wrong to kill.”
“According to Hume, everybody has a feeling for other people’s welfare. So we all have a
capacity for compassion. But it has nothing to do with reason.”
“I don’t know if I agree.”
“It’s not always so unwise to get rid of another person, Sophie. If you wish to achieve something

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موضوعات مشابه
موضوع نویسنده موضوع انجمن پاسخ ها آخرين نوشته
Confessions of a Shopaholic By Sophie Kinsella haleh3298 خارجی و زبان اصلی 9 ۲۳ مرداد ۱۳۹۲ ۰۳:۳۰ بعد از ظهر
The Undomestic Goddess By Sophie Kinsella honey_x خارجی و زبان اصلی 1 ۱۹ تير ۱۳۹۱ ۱۱:۲۹ بعد از ظهر
Can You Keep A Secret By Sophie Kinsella yasi_69 خارجی و زبان اصلی 3 ۲۲ ارديبهشت ۱۳۹۱ ۱۰:۰۷ بعد از ظهر
Sophie’s World By Jostien Gaarder Persiana خارجی و زبان اصلی 0 ۵ مهر ۱۳۸۹ ۱۲:۱۱ قبل از ظهر


 

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