On collecting quotations (series: notes to myself)

Newton.  Phrases that roundly capture juicy thoughts. Nothing to add, nothing to subtract, impeccable syntax, perfect semantics. Tiny shiny shells, to be collected "like a boy playing on the seashore", in a file of memorabilia. I save quotations from the waves of forgetfulness, before time grinds them into the sand relentlessly filling my mind. Locke.  The collector of quotations is fastidious. One's own quotations are not those to be found in cheap lists or memorised by everyone. No. For the collector, they must have the purity and uniqueness of an unknown gem dug up by himself. The effort in finding them, then extracting and saving them, is part of their value. For the quotations are semantic capital that the collector "removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property". They are his quotations of someone else. The double possession ma

On Pascal and the door of a Church (series: notes to myself)

We live in a tiny village. Green fields and trees anywhere you look, apart from the local Church and its graveyard, our quiet neighbourhood.  The other day I went to visit it. I had been planning to meditate inside it, surrounded by symbols, evidence of other people's faith, of their beliefs in transcendence and supernaturalism. A step on Pascal's road, I had thought. Only, in my case, to the re-acquisition of faith, not its acquisition or protection. Keep trying and you will believe, apparently. Well, it turns out to be way more difficult in practice than when you read it in a book. It feels like wanting to believe that the world is different from what it screams to be: messy, accidental, random, chaotic, godless, so pervasively and bottomlessly historical.  I thought I could get inside, in the silent space of the navel of the Church, spend a moment reflecting, and maybe record some thoughts, like I'm doing now. While walking to the Church, I even wondered whether some loc

"Notes to myself" available on Amazon

"Notes to myself" are now available as a little book on Amazon: - ebook free for kindle unlimited or  £2.50, lowest rounded price allowed by Amazon - paperback on Amazon:   $4, lowest, rounded prize allowed by Amazon MANY THANKS to everyone who sent suggestions and notes of encouragement.  I hope it won't disappoint you.

On the importance of lacking the courage (series: notes to myself)

Courage is a virtue. Everybody knows this. It’s one of the four classic ones. It's used as an example in any ethics class, often in some old-fashioned way. You know, like philosophers always talking about horses as if they were the most obvious objects in the world.  In the good old days (kind of), courage referred to your attitude in battle. And not in any battle, but one in which you engaged with the enemy in hand-to-hand combat, with weapons the size of a broom. After all, our founding father, Socrates, served in the Athenian army as hoplite and distinguished himself during the Peloponnesian war. Not your average prof in some academic ivory tower. Plato was taught by the equivalent of a decorated marine, who died for his beliefs. Aristotle argued that courage is in between rashness and cowardice. It seems something good, always to be praised. You want to be courageous, if not in battle, at least in everyday life, at least in upholding your beliefs, defending your actions, taking

Il sapore della felicità condivisa

Il 19 marzo del 1850, Charlotte Brönte scrive una lettera a William Smith Williams, l’editore presso Smith Elder che per primo aveva riconosciuto in lei una straordinaria scrittrice. Williams le ha inviato alcuni libri da leggere, e lei, nel ringraziarlo, usa una frase divenuta famosa e che oggi troviamo citata ovunque: “la felicità non condivisa può a malapena essere chiamata felicità. Non ha sapore/gusto.” (Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness—it has no taste). Per le persone misantrope e asociali, o anche semplicemente un po’ solitarie, che ritengono che la solitudine sia l’unica felicità (beata solitudo, sola beatitudo), l’affermazione sembra del tutto errata. Eppure, è difficile non riconoscere che esiste un tipo di felicità che richiede la sua condivisione per essere goduta a pieno e non restare incompleta. Non si tratta della felicità intesa come contentezza. Come si sa, questa fa riferimento allo stare bene con se stessi e con la propria vita, in pace con l

On not finding the right words (series: notes to myself)

The most I can do is write. And I'm not even sure I'm good at it.  Words seem to be missing all the time. I guess it's me, unable to find them. But sometimes I suspect it's their fault. They are good at hiding, staying away even when I'm tired to chase them. Or they run away, everywhere, even when corralled judiciously, like scared sheep. I wish I had a tireless shepherd dog to help me. Words are mismatched all the time. Like a jar full of nuts and bolts. Too tight, too big, too large, too small... and when they almost fit, forcing them will only strip them. So with gentle patience, as if you were not in a hurry, as if time were not an enemy of semantics, you must find the few that go together, the growling sound of the shooked jar echoing in your mind. Hoping that care and tenacity may deliver the occasional bingo. Words slide all the time. Mischievous like slime you can collect but cannot catch. Misleadingly flexible, actually amorphous, generic words that cover a

On the value of double negatives (series: notes to myself)

I grew up as a classic logician. "Classic", not as in "typical", but as in "logic based on the classic assumptions of the principle of  bivalence  and the law of excluded middle ".  Everything used to be either true or false. If something was not true, then it had to be false, and of course vice-versa: p or not p , nothing else, with not-not p just being equal to p .  Disproving not p was equivalent to proving that p . If you think of it, it is quite a smart but  strange way of reasoning . Like proving that you are healthy by assuming that you are sick, then running a whole series of deductions, showing that they all lead, inevitably and necessarily, to impossible conclusions, and hence inferring that the premise must be false, thus finally concluding that, since you are not sick, you must be healthy after all. The trouble is that you still have no idea about how or in what sense you may be healthy. For related reasons, when I was young, I was not fond