Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Plato’s Myth of Atlantis, the End of the Minoan Civilization, and A Hard Look at Human Extinction
May 11, 2011

Lost Worlds: Atlantis


Secrets of the Dead: Sinking Atlantis


Plato on Deforestation, Soil Abuse and Water Mismanagement

“What now remains of the formerly rich land is like the skeleton of a sick man, with all the fat and soft earth having wasted away and only the bare framework remaining. Formerly, many of the mountains were arable. The plains that were full of rich soil are now marshes. Hills that were once covered with forests and produced abundant pasture now produce food only for bees. Once the land was enriched by yearly rains, which were not lost, as they are now, by flowing from the bare land into the sea. The soil was deep, it absorbed and kept the water in the loamy soil, and the water that soaked into the hills fed springs and running streams everywhere. Now the abandoned shrines at spots where formerly there were springs attest that our description of the land is true.”

–Plato, “Critias”, ca. 360 BCE, an entire dialog devoted to the myth of Atlantis.


Sources for the Myth of Atlantis in Plato’s Timaeus:

“And what was the tale about, Critias? said Amynander. 
About the greatest action which the Athenians ever did, and which ought to have been the most famous, but, through the lapse of time and the destruction of the actors, it has not come down to us. 

Tell us, said the other, the whole story, and how and from whom Solon heard this veritable tradition. 

He replied:-In the Egyptian Delta, at the head of which the river Nile divides, there is a certain district which is called the district of Sais, and the great city of the district is also called Sais, and is the city from which King Amasis came. The citizens have a deity for their foundress; she is called in the Egyptian tongue Neith, and is asserted by them to be the same whom the Hellenes call Athene; they are great lovers of the Athenians, and say that they are in some way related to them. To this city came Solon, and was received there with great honour; he asked the priests who were most skilful in such matters, about antiquity, and made the discovery that neither he nor any other Hellene knew anything worth mentioning about the times of old. On one occasion, wishing to draw them on to speak of antiquity, he began to tell about the most ancient things in our part of the world-about Phoroneus, who is called “the first man,” and about Niobe; and after the Deluge, of the survival of Deucalion and Pyrrha; and he traced the genealogy of their descendants, and reckoning up the dates, tried to compute how many years ago the events of which he was speaking happened. Thereupon one of the priests, who was of a very great age, said: O Solon, Solon, you Hellenes are never anything but children, and there is not an old man among you. Solon in return asked him what he meant. I mean to say, he replied, that in mind you are all young; there is no old opinion handed down among you by ancient tradition, nor any science which is hoary with age. And I will tell you why. There have been, and will be again, many destructions of mankind arising out of many causes; the greatest have been brought about by the agencies of fire and water, and other lesser ones by innumerable other causes. There is a story, which even you have preserved, that once upon a time Paethon, the son of Helios, having yoked the steeds in his father’s chariot, because he was not able to drive them in the path of his father, burnt up all that was upon the earth, and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt. Now this has the form of a myth, but really signifies a declination of the bodies moving in the heavens around the earth, and a great conflagration of things upon the earth, which recurs after long intervals; at such times those who live upon the mountains and in dry and lofty places are more liable to destruction than those who dwell by rivers or on the seashore. And from this calamity the Nile, who is our never-failing saviour, delivers and preserves us. When, on the other hand, the gods purge the earth with a deluge of water, the survivors in your country are herdsmen and shepherds who dwell on themountains, but those who, like you, live in cities are carried by the rivers into the sea. Whereas in this land, neither then nor at any other time, does the water come down from above on the fields, having always a tendency to come up from below; for which reason the traditions preserved here are the most ancient. 

The fact is, that wherever the extremity of winter frost or of summer does not prevent, mankind exist, sometimes in greater, sometimes in lesser numbers. And whatever happened either in your country or in ours, or in any other region of which we are informed-if there were any actions noble or great or in any other way remarkable, they have all been written down by us of old, and are preserved in our temples. Whereas just when you and other nations are beginning to be provided with letters and the other requisites of civilized life, after the usual interval, the stream from heaven, like a pestilence, comes pouring down, and leaves only those of you who are destitute of letters and education; and so you have to begin all over again like children, and know nothing of what happened in ancient times, either among us or among yourselves. As for those genealogies of yours which you just now recounted to us, Solon, they are no better than the tales of children. In the first place you remember a single deluge only, but there were many previous ones; in the next place, you do not know that there formerly dwelt in your land the fairest and noblest race of men which ever lived, and that you and your whole city are descended from a small seed or remnant of them which survived. And this was unknown to you, because, for many generations, the survivors of that destruction died, leaving no written word. For there was a time, Solon, before the great deluge of all, when the city which now is Athens was first in war and in every way the best governed of all cities, is said to have performed the noblest deeds and to have had the fairest constitution of any of which tradition tells, under the face of heaven. 

Solon marvelled at his words, and earnestly requested the priests to inform him exactly and in order about these former citizens. You are welcome to hear about them, Solon, said the priest, both for your own sake and for that of your city, and above all, for the sake of the goddess who is the common patron and parent and educator of both our cities. She founded your city a thousand years before ours, receiving from the Earth and Hephaestus the seed of your race, and afterwards she founded ours, of which the constitution is recorded in our sacred registers to be eight thousand years old. As touching your citizens of nine thousand years ago, I will briefly inform you of their laws and of their most famous action; the exact particulars of the whole we will hereafter go through at our leisure in the sacred registers themselves. If you compare these very laws with ours you will find that many of ours are the counterpart of yours as they were in the olden time. In the first place, there is the caste of priests, which is separated from all the others; next, there are the artificers, who ply their several crafts by themselves and do not intermix; and also there is the class of shepherds and of hunters, as well as that of husbandmen; and you will observe, too, that the warriors in Egypt are distinct from all the other classes, and are commanded by the law to devote themselves solely to military pursuits; moreover, the weapons which they carry are shields and spears, a style of equipment which the goddess taught of Asiatics first to us, as in your part of the world first to you. Then as to wisdom, do you observe how our law from the very first made a study of the whole order of things, extending even to prophecy and medicine which gives health, out of these divine elements deriving what was needful for human life, and adding every sort of knowledge which was akin to them. All this order and arrangement the goddess first imparted to you when establishing your city; and she chose the spot of earth in which you were born, because she saw that the happy temperament of the seasons in that land would produce the wisest of men. Wherefore the goddess, who was a lover both of war and of wisdom, selected and first of all settled that spot which was the most likely to produce men likest herself. And there you dwelt, having such laws as these and still better ones, and excelled all mankind in all virtue, as became the children and disciples of the gods. 

Many great and wonderful deeds are recorded of your state in our histories. But one of them exceeds all the rest in greatness and valour. For these histories tell of a mighty power which unprovoked made an expedition against the whole of Europe and Asia, and to which your city put an end. This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Heracles; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent. Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent, and, furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. This vast power, gathered into one, endeavoured to subdue at a blow our country and yours and the whole of the region within the straits; and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was pre-eminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes. And when the rest fell off from her, being compelled to stand alone, after having undergone the very extremity of danger, she defeated and triumphed over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those who were not yet subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell within the pillars. But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island. 

I have told you briefly, Socrates, what the aged Critias heard from Solon and related to us. And when you were speaking yesterday about your city and citizens, the tale which I have just been repeating to youcame into my mind, and I remarked with astonishment how, by some mysterious coincidence, you agreed in almost every particular with the narrative of Solon; but I did not like to speak at the moment. For a long time had elapsed, and I had forgotten too much; I thought that I must first of all run over the narrative in my own mind, and then I would speak. And so I readily assented to your request yesterday, considering that in all such cases the chief difficulty is to find a tale suitable to our purpose, and that with such a tale we should be fairly well provided. “


Robin Hanson: Catastrophe, Social Collapse and Human Extinction


In The Beginning, There Was Eros.
April 15, 2011

“These things declare to me from the beginning, you Muses who dwell in the house of Olympus, [115] and tell me which of them first came to be. In truth at first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundation of all1the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth, [120] and Eros (Love), fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men within them.

— Hesiod, “Theogony,” 7th century BCE, (lines 114-138)

“Sing, Heav’nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,
In the Beginning how the Heav’ns and Earth
Rose out of Chaos: Or if Sion Hill [ 10 ]
Delight thee more, and Siloa’s Brook that flow’d
Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous Song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th’ Aonian Mount, while it pursues [ 15 ]
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime.
And chiefly Thou O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all Temples th’ upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know’st; Thou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread [ 20 ]
Dove-like satst brooding on the vast Abyss
And mad’st it pregnant…”
—  John Milton, 1667, “Paradise Lost”, Book 1, (lines 17-22)

      “IMMORTAL LOVE! who ere the morn of Time,
On wings outstretch’d, o’er Chaos hung sublime;
Warm’d into life the bursting egg of Night,
And gave young Nature to admiring Light!—
YOU! whose wide arms, in soft embraces hurl’d
Round the vast frame, connect the whirling world!
Whether immers’d in day, the Sun your throne,
You gird the planets in your silver zone;
Or warm, descending on ethereal wing,
The Earth’s cold bosom with the beams of spring;
Press drop to drop, to atom atom bind,
Link sex to sex, or rivet mind to mind;
Attend my song!—With rosy lips rehearse,
And with your polish’d arrows write my verse!—

— Erasmus Darwin, 1802, “The Temple of Nature,” Book 1, (lines 15-28)

“EDITOR’S NOTE: l. 15. This address to Immortal Love conflates many different ideas. It alludes to the opening of Genesis, by way of Milton’s invocation of the Holy Spirit, which “with mighty wings outspread / Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast abyss / And mad’st it pregnant” (Paradise Lost, I, 20-22); but it also echoes the invocation to the love-goddess Venus which opens Lucretius’s materialist poem De Rerum Natura (I, 1-49). For “the egg of Night” (17), see III, 178n, where Darwin quotes from Aristophanes’s The Birds: “sable-winged night produced an egg, from whence sprung up like a blossom Eros, the lovely, the desirable, with glossy golden wings.” Darwin distinguishes this “celestial” creative Eros (who reappears as the god of “Sentimental Love” in Canto III) from the “terrestrial” god of sexual love Cupid (the dominant deity of Canto II, on Reproduction). Early drafts make this identification clearer by addressing the present passage to “Celestial Love.” Darwin had already explored these ideas in notes toThe Economy of Vegetation, discussing the Aristophanes quote more fully (I, 413n), and (in The Economy of Vegetation, I, 101n) linking the image of “the egg of Night” (17) to the idea of evolution, in single organisms, in the formation of the earth and finally between species: “From having observed the gradual evolution of the young animal or plant from its egg or seed . . . , philosophers of all ages seem to have imagined, that the great world itself had likewise its infancy and gradual progress to maturity; this seems to have given origin to the very ancient and sublime allegory of Eros, or Divine Love, producing the world from the egg of Night, as it floated in Chaos.” Darwin goes on to link this idea to evidence that the earth’s crust has built up slowly, and that many plants and animals display “useless or incomplete appendages,” suggesting development from or towards other species.”

For more on Eros, its grip on our psyche and the consequences of unrestrained “terrestrial” Eros, download a PDF of my Senior Thesis: Marketing Magicians of the Shopocalypse: Eros, Advertising and… the End of the World? 

ABSTRACT: The modern marketing profession is not merely the child of 20th century capitalism. It is also an heir to the theories and traditions of Renaissance magic. In particular, Giordano Bruno’s techniques of “bonding” and his special version of the classical “art of memory” provide the basis for especially effective forms of integrated brand promotion which combine the raw power of human desire with an appeal to the archetypal nature of the human psyche. This article examines the Classical origins of Bruno’s theories and techniques as well as some of their modern marketing usages in an attempt to ascertain how they have brought humanity to the brink of extinction through the stimulation of consumer frenzy, and how they might help us survive.

From the Conclusion: Both lover and beloved, then, have together succumbed to the incessant whinnying of the corporeal horse (the lower Eros), exercising little to no self-restraint. The consumer/beloved engages in self destructive behavior at the behest of the manufacturer/lover, and the cycle of dysfunctional codependence perpetuates itself to the brink of annihilation. This is precisely the kind of self destructive greed which caused Wall Street to crumble at the expense of taxpayers and which lurks in the trash-strewn epicenter of the Shopocalypse.

This “hubris,” as Plato calls it “when desire rules in us and drags us toward pleasure in a manner contrary to reason,” has its remedy in its opposite, or “judiciousness,” which occurs “when judgment guides us by reason toward what is best and is strong enough to prevail.” Given how undisciplined it has become, regaining control over the ornery horse will not be easy. However, the task of bringing the two horses back into balance under the rational authority of the charioteer is crucial to human development, as it constitutes the process whereby the soul regains its wings. Once desires have been tempered and the wings regrown, the soul may once again partake in the procession of Zeus, gazing out once more over the rim of heaven to look upon the “things which are.”

‎”Because of Eros, and through it, all of Nature is turned into a great Sorceress.”

— Iaon P. Couliano, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, p. 87

Bibliography and Works Cited:

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Bernays, Edward. (1947). “The Engineering of Consent.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 250, 113-120.

Bernays, Edward. (1971). Emergence of the Public Relations Counsel: Principles and Recollections. The Business History Review, Vol. 45, No. 3, 296-316

Berthon, Pierre; Holbrook, Morris; Hulbert, James. (2003). “Understanding and Managing the Brand Space.” MIT Sloan Management Review, Vol. 44, No 2, 50-51

Bruno, Giordano. (1590, reissued 1998). Blackwell, Richard & de Lucca, Robert, ed. “A General Account of Bonding.” Giordano Bruno: Cause, Principle and Unity: And Essays on Magic. Port Chester, NY: Cambridge University Press. 145-176.

Bruno, Giordano. (1590, reissued 1998). Blackwell, Richard & de Lucca, Robert, ed. “On Magic.” Giordano Bruno: Cause, Principle and Unity: And Essays on Magic. Port Chester, NY: Cambridge University Press. 103-142.

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Dawkins, Richard. (1976). The Selfish Gene. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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Lindstrom, Martin. (2008). Buy-ology: Truth and Lies about What We Buy. New York, NY: Doubleday.

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VanAlkemade, Rob. (Director). (2007). What Would Jesus Buy? [Film]. Warrior Poets Releasing.

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Woodside, Arch, G.; Sood, Suresh; Miller, Kenneth, E. (2008). “When Consumers and Brands Talk: Storytelling Theory and Research in Psychology and Marketing.” Psychology and Marketing, Vol.25, No. 2, 97-145.

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1992 World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity

Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about.

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