I’m not done reading Rights of Man yet but here’s what I have so far.

I’m appreciating all the one-liners (page references are according to the Adelaide ebook).

“What Athens was in miniature America will be in magnitude.” (140)

“Reason obeys itself; and Ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.” (99)

“…as there is but one species of man, there can be but one element of human power; and that element is man himself.” (101)

Okay, so the last one isn’t exactly one line, but still. I know that give the subject matter, one-liners are basically inevitable, but seeing how concisely Thomas Paine can state his ideas is refreshing.

There are, of course, callbacks to earlier books.

Rousseau (and maybe some Hobbes?): “We have now, in a few words, traced man from a natural individual to a member of society, and shown, or endeavoured to show, the quality of the natural rights retained, and of those which are exchanged for civil rights.” (38)

Plato: “If there existed a man so transcendently wise above all others, that his wisdom was necessary to instruct a nation, some reason might be offered for monarchy…” (86)

Césaire/Walcott: “Titles are but nicknames, and every nickname is a title. The thing is perfectly harmless in itself, but it marks a sort of foppery in the human character…” (47)

I’m in Part the Second right now, and a lot of it is Paine comparing/contrasting European governments with the American. So much of what he says in lauding is completely different from how the US government is so often criticized. It’s interesting.

One more thing: at the very, very beginning, Paine seems pretty polite towards Mr. Burke, but everything else Paine’s said about him after that is just complaint after complaint. I don’t get it. Am I missing something?

Short blog post, I guess. Thanks for reading, everyone.

Go on

I’m finding that the more philosophy we read the less I like reading it. Rousseau wasn’t too difficult to get through but in some places I just felt like my mind was falling out.

To start with (and probably the only subject matter of this post):

“… not only did such commodities continue to soften body and mind and as they had the same time degenerated into actual needs, being deprived of them became much more cruel than the possession of them was sweet…” (113)

In some places, the Discourse on Inequality reminds me a lot of contemporary motivational/advising media. This part would probably translate into something like “don’t use your free time to find vices”. There’s also this:

“As a result of seeing each other, people cannot do without seeing more of each other. A tender and sweet sentiment insinuates itself into the soul, and at the least obstacle becomes an inflamed fury; jealousy awakens with love; discord triumphs, and the gentlest of passions receives the sacrifice of human blood” (114)

That struck me as a specific example of how, to quote the first link I wasn’t afraid to click on in the first page of results when googling the phrase “the pursuit of happiness is the cause of all unhappiness”:

“Groundbreaking work by Iris Mauss has recently supported the counterintuitive idea that striving for happiness may actually cause more harm than good. In fact, at times, the more people pursue happiness the less they seem able to obtain it. Mauss shows that the more people strive for happiness, the more likely they will be to set a high standard for happiness—then be disappointed when that standard is not met.”

There’s also this in Rousseau’s footnotes:

“One must not confuse pride and self-love, two passions very different in their nature and in their effects” (167)

Hobbes also uses the phrase “self-love” (99, para. 35), and I don’t think I completely understand what he’s talking about in that paragraph, but it’s there. I know Rousseau’s/Cranston’s usage of the phrase – an instinct for self-preservation – is kind of different from its modern meaning, but it’s funny to see it anyway.

Here’s another nigh irrelevant music video I like. It’s also where this post’s title comes from. Thanks for reading, everyone. It was really cold today.


[Edited to clarify where the footnote was from.]

[Edited a second time because I wrote "happiness" instead of "unhappiness". Sorry, everyone.]