“We should strive to develop in ourselves a ‘forgiving attitude.’ This does not guarantee that we will forgive those who harm us, but it does make it more likely and should make us better people in the end.”






Inspiring Quotes








One of the more interesting essays comes from David Novitz, who discusses the nature and value of forgiveness. Many of the essays deal with behaviors against which non-religious people no longer hold the traditional religious taboos — for example, there isn’t the same general condemnation of adultery or idolatry as there once was or still is among religious people. That is not, however, the case with forgiveness.

It is a common assumption among even non-religious people that forgiving others is a virtue and not forgiving them is a vice, but Novitz demonstrates that reality should be regarded as much more complicated. According to Novitz, a person cannot simply force herself to forgive another through a simple act of will — and, in fact, being too ready to forgive may not be a good idea:

“To be too eager to forgive is a vice since …the attempt to forgive may not be rationally warranted, may very well signal a willingness to condone what is immoral, and may not only underestimate one’s own worth but, in the process, may perpetuate and aggravate the harm and the wrong that one has suffered, and may do so in ways that preclude eventual forgiveness.”Instead of simply repeating the mantra that we should “forgive and forget,” Novitz makes a good case for the idea that we should rather strive to develop in ourselves a “forgiving attitude.” This does not guarantee that we will forgive those who harm us, but it does make it more likely and should make us better people in the end:

In Defense of Sin, edited by John PortmannIn Defense of Sin, edited by John Portmann
“…those who have acquired the virtue of forgiveness — those, that is, who are disposed to undertake the task of forgiving in the appropriate circumstances — are more likely to succeed in this task than those who have not acquired this virtue. They will be practised at empathy and compassion and will tend, more often than not, to forgive in situations where it is appropriate to do so.”Novitz’s essay is a good example for illustrating the nature of what Portmann is trying to accomplish. It does not argue that forgiving is bad or that not forgiving is good; instead, it argues that the simple dichotomy of forgiving vs. not forgiving does not accurately reflect human nature, and that traditional notions of how we should behave are inappropriate. In contrast, Novitz argues that reality is more complicated than we realize and that we should think more seriously rather than simply repeat mindlessly “forgive and forget.”***






How much have we human beings learned over the past three millennia? The answer depends on what we’re talking about. In terms of technology and science, we’ve learned a great deal. In terms of philosophy and values… well, not as much.

We’ve certainly progressed, there’s no doubt about it, but the fact that ancient philosophers’ writings continue to have value on important subjects means that we haven’t progressed as much as we might think or wish. Contrast that with what ancient philosophers wrote about natural sciences — or even what early scientists wrote.

Massimo Pigliucci, a former biologist who is now a professor of philosophy at the City University of New York, has written a book entitled Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life. In it he combines the wisdom of ancient philosophers with the information provided by modern science to describe how we can best live.

“Aristotle was among the first to approach the big questions in both a philosophical and a scientific manner, and we are now beginning to have some good (if provisional) answers to those questions,” Pigliucci claims. This view inspires his own approach, which he calls “sci-phi”: a blend of empirical analysis and armchair thoughts about values.
Throughout, he draws on Aristotle and a score of other philosophers, and on the evidence of the past few decades from biology, neuroscience, psychology and sociology. Along the way, he tackles such hardy perennials as the origins of superstition, religion and morality, the relationship between fairness and justice, and the evolutionary significance of love and friendship – including online friendship.
Philosophers relish a challenging thought experiment, and Pigliucci is no exception. My favourite was a surgeon confronted by five injured people in an emergency room, each with a lethal lesion in a different vital organ. If the surgeon takes a utilitarian view, he should force one healthy bystander to donate these five organs and thereby save five lives. “This would certainly increase the general degree of happiness, or decrease the general amount of pain,” writes Pigliucci. But of course the surgeon would be regarded as a monster.
Source: New Scientist October 6, 2012

Is there any other subject except philosophy where someone as far back in time as Aristotle would continue to be relevant? Whose writings would continue to help us to understand ourselves and our world today?



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