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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Perhaps one of the most interesting words in the English language today

This is a famous passage which I first heard this in the form of a WAV file with the first movement of Spring from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons in Secondary One (in 1996):

As 13 year olds, we understandably found it funny, but listening to this still brings a smile to my face - and not just due to nostalgia.

Today, someone sent me a variant: a comedy clip with a bearded Indian man reciting a similar script (slower, with poorer delivery and with annoying laughter in the background):

(this is almost twice as long in length)

I did some research and this comes from a longer sketch where the chap is talking about how "Fuck" has replaced "God" as the most important word in the English language, thanks to Nietzsche:

The video information dates the original sketch to 1980:

"Osho used this sketch on the word fuck first in a talk in 1980 and repeated it again in this later talk. We have seen the original of this sketch being attributed to Jack Wagner, George Carlin and Monty Python - no one seems to be sure.

"When Friedrich Nietzsche declared, "God is dead," he himself became utterly helpless no consolation, no hope, no meaning. He had to go through a long process of insanity.

Nietzsche seems to me to be the most important figure that has dominated the world in this century. Without any argument his statement has infiltrated into every mind. But he was not aware of the implications. I have no problem if God is dead. There is no need to mourn his death.

The problem is that if God is dead, then you lose the most important word in your language and you will need a substitute. God was one end, one extreme, and when one extreme disappears from your mental vision, the necessary and inevitable is that you will fall to the other extreme.

And that's what has happened, Milarepa. Instead of God, `fuck' has become the most important word in our language. Even if Friedrich Nietzsche comes back, he will be surprised and he will try to resurrect somehow the dead God, because this is stupid. But you will need a whole report on it, a whole research.

One of the most interesting words in the English language today is the word `fuck'. It is a magical word. Just by its sound it can describe pain, pleasure, hate and love. In language it falls into many grammatical categories. It can be used as a verb, both transitive, "John fucked Mary," and intransitive, "Mary was fucked by John", and as a noun, "Mary is a fine fuck." It can be used as an adjective, "Mary is fucking beautiful."

As you can see, there are not many words with the versatility of fuck. Besides the sexual meaning, there are also the following uses:

Ignorance: Fucked if I know.
Trouble: I guess I am fucked now!
Fraud: I got fucked at the used car lot.
Aggression: Fuck you!
Displeasure: What the fuck is going on here?
Difficulty: I can't understand this fucking job.
Incompetence: He is a fuck-off.
Suspicion: What the fuck are you doing?
Enjoyment: I had a fucking good time.
Request: Get the fuck out of here.
Hostility: I'm going to knock your fucking head off.
Greeting: How the fuck are you?
Apathy: Who gives a fuck?
Innovation: Get a bigger fucking hammer.
Surprise: Fuck! You scared the shit out of me!
Anxiety: Today is really fucked.

And it is very healthy if every morning you do it as a transcendental meditation just when you get up, first thing, repeat the mantra "fuck you" five times; it clears your throat too!"

Who Osho was, I didn't know. The only candidate was Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, né Chandra Mohan Jain, aka Acharya Rajneesh.

I was quite skeptical given that Wikipedia positions him as a mystic/guru rather than a comedian, but it does mention his "comedic talent", and photos match up.

A slightly modified version turns up on UseNet, dated September 1984:

"It seems there is some interest in the word 'fuck', I haven't been around the NET for some time now (having changed jobs), but have started reading it lately, and thought I'd submit the following item. As Tom Cruise put it in Risky Business, once in a while you just have to say "What the fuck!"


Perhaps one of the most interesting words in the English language today is the word "FUCK". It is one of those magical words that, just by the sound, can describe pain, pleasure, hate, and love. "FUCK", as most words in the English language, takes its name from the German word "friden" which means to strike.

In language, "FUCK" falls into many grammatical categories. It can be used as a verb, both intransitive (Mary was fucked by John) and transitive (John fucked Mary). As an adverb (Mary is fucking interested in John) and as a noun (Mary is a fine fuck). It can also be used as an adjective (Mary is a fucking beautiful girl). As you can see, there are not many words with the versatility of "FUCK".

Besides the sexual meaning, there are the following uses:

Fraud.....................I got fucked at the used car lot.
Dismay....................Oh, fuck it!
Trouble...................I guess I'm fucked now.
Agression.................Fuck you!
Difficulty................I can't understand this fucking job.
Displeasure...............What the fuck is going on here?
Incompetence..............He is a "fuck-off".
Ignorance.................Fuck if I know.
Apathy....................Who gives a fuck?
Disdain...................The fuck you can.

I know you can think of many more uses. But, with all these uses how can anyone be offended when you say "FUCK"?

We can use this word more often in our daily speach. It adds to our prestige.

Say LOUD and CLEAR:............."FUCK YOU".

Since none of the other stuff was rotated, I didn't rotate this...Enjoy."

Of course, the best version is the classic with Spring:

"Perhaps one of the most interesting words in the English language today, is the word fuck. Out of all the English words that begin with the letter 'f' ...fuck is the only word referred to as 'the f word... It's the one magical word. Just by its sound can describe pain, pleasure, hate and love. Fuck, as most words in the English language is derived from German ...the word fuieken, which means to strike.

In English, fuck falls into many grammatical categories:

As a transitive verb for instance.. John fucked Shirley.
As an intransitive verb... Shirley fucks.

Its meaning is not always sexual, it can be used as...

An adjective such as... John's doing all the fucking work.
As part of an adverb... Shirley talks too fucking much.
As an adverb enhancing an adjective... Shirley is fucking beautiful.
As a noun... I don't give a fuck.
As part of a word... absofuckinglutely -or- infuckingcredible.
And as almost every word in a sentence... Fuck the fucking fuckers.

As you must realize, there aren't too many words with the versatility of fuck...such as these examples describing situations such as:

Fraud: I got fucked at the used car lot.
Dismay: ahhh fuck it.
Trouble: I guess I'm really fucked now.
Aggression: Don't fuck with me buddy.
Difficulty: I don't understand this fucking question.
Inquiry: Who the fuck was that?
Dissatisfaction: I don't like what the fuck is going on here.
Incompetence: He's a fuck-off.
Dismissal: Why don't you go outside and play hide and go fuck yourself...

I'm sure you can think of many more examples.

With all these multi-purpose applications, how can anyone be offended when you use the word. We say use this unique, flexible word more often in your daily speech.

It will identify the quality of your character immediately.

Say it loudly and proudly: FUCK YOU!"

Monday, August 26, 2013

Links - 26th August 2013

Women: Why do some women like to strike a pose where one leg is kicking backwards? Is there a name for this pose? - Quora - "I think the primary aesthetic reason is the enhancement of the booty curve. It also can elevate sexy-looking shoes so they're highlighted in a photo."
"the leg thing is a prerogative of very young (chronologically and emotionally) females. The sole purpose of this is to look perky since certain muscles get tensed, plus the pose adds the curves, as you can see from the referenced photo. Otherwise, it adds some romantic aura (below is the explanation from The Princess Diaries (2001 movie)"

Parisians issued advice on how to deal with Chinese tourists - ""A simple smile and a greeting in their language satisfies them completely," the guide issued by the Regional Tourism Council of the Paris Chamber of Commerce reads. "Rouanne ing gouang linne" is how it tries to explain the intricacies of saying "welcome" in Chinese... Last autumn, a Parisian hotelier caused outrage when he said his hotel would not serve Chinese tourists, because of their bad manners... Despite this, most Chinese remain enchanted with the city of lights. Almost 47 per cent of visitors from China say they wish to return to Paris within two years, according to the tourism council."

The day I asked the Home Office to help me go home – to Willesden Green - "I kept the (very polite) Home Office man on the phone for some time, all the while sounding more and more despondent at the fact there was no chance he would get me a taxi for my five-mile journey home. It wasn't the most considered form of political action I have ever engaged in. But I soon wondered if it might be the most effective. The tweets I posted summarising my conversation reached hundreds of thousands of people and trended second in the UK. Others began to text messages to the Home Office asking for help to "go home": road updates, train times and lost keys, all reported under the #racistvan hashtag, utilising both wit and disgust. People saw the humour in the mild trolling of the Home Office, and the responses demonstrated that they too recognised that this is a vicious, hateful campaign."
A form of trolling liberals would approve of

The Avengers (Power Rangers Style!) - YouTube

NeverSeconds - "One primary school pupil's daily dose of school dinners."

Is Indonesian Islam tolerant? - "Is Indonesian Islam better? In what way? If it is tolerant and inclusive because of its strong Sufi dimension, whereas some orientalists argue that Sufism is not originally Islamic, does it mean that Islam basically is intolerant and Indonesian Islam is less Islamic? How would we explain the recent increasing intolerance of Muslims in Indonesia, as reflected in the recent acts of terrorism in the name of religion, the Sampang Shiite tragedy, the rise of extremism among young Indonesian Muslims and the negative evaluation by the US Department of State in its 2011 International Religious Freedom Report? If this intolerance is seen as foreign influence, wasn’t Islam itself a foreign religion in the beginning?... In different degrees and levels of power, both the inclusive and exclusive, tolerant and intolerant Islam coexists throughout Islamic history. We cannot argue that any act of violence committed by an Indonesian Muslim is an anomaly, an exception, or due to foreign influence. That would be dishonest and would only prevent us from properly digesting and eventually overcoming the real problems."

Is Indonesia still a model of religious tolerance? - "Despite a rise in religiously-motivated violence at home, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono addressed a wealthy crowd at New York’s Pierre hotel on Thursday night and accepted an award from an interfaith group for his work promoting religious freedom and human rights... the US State Department released its annual report on religious freedom, which expresses concern about rising religious intolerance in Indonesia."

Is Will Smith Homophobic? - ""MOSCOW (AP) — Hollywood star Will Smith slapped a male television reporter who he said tried to kiss him on the lips as he walked down the red carpet for the Moscow premiere of "Men in Black III.""
If a woman slaps a man who tries to kiss her, is she misandristic?

Beautiful women 'more likely to be unfaithful' - ""Women with higher oestradiol reported a greater likelihood of flirting, kissing and having a serious affair with someone other than their primary partner and were marginally more likely to date another man." But while high-oestradiol women had significantly more long-term relationships the hormone wasn't related to the likelihood of one-night stands. "The results suggest although high-oestradiol women may not subjectively prefer long over short-term relationships they nonetheless adopt a strategy of serial monogamy""

Men prefer feminine features for a quick fling - "Studies on factors that influence human mating mostly focus on women, who have shown a similar preference for a hunkier man for a fling but a geekier one to settle down with -- possibly a more reliable bet for helping to raise children... They found that men rated women with more feminine features more highly for a fling. The preference was especially high among men who were already in a steady relationship. "When a man has secured a mate, the potential cost of being discovered may increase his choosiness regarding short-term partners relative to unpartnered men, who can better increase their short-term mating success by relaxing their standards," wrote the study authors. But in making long-term choices, men "may actually prefer less attractive/feminine women," they added. Previous research has found that attractive women are likelier to be unfaithful, particularly if their partner is unattractive. "If his partner cheats on him, a man risks raising a child which is not his own""
Marry a woman uglier than you

Psychology of infidelity: Why men and women cheat - "“Men and women view sex differently. They have different values. Women view sex more relationship-related than for procreation. Men tend to view sex more in terms of recreation, fun and even stress release”... “When the woman cheats, she’s more likely to cheat with a single male and to develop an intimate and more romantic relationship,” he said. “Women tend to cheat more along the lines of a romance novel, where they are looking for that kind of dynamic and romantic intimate attention and excitement. When a man cheats, he’s more likely to cheat in a series of one-night-stands. Men oftentimes are looking for that kind of high from a new sexual relationships from the attention of oftentimes a younger woman and to feel that kind of escape.” In his research, Dr. Ley said the one common ground amongst both sexes that cheat is a sense of psychological and biological excitement that oftentimes diminishes in long-term relationships. In fact, the aforementioned Journal of Marital and Family Therapy study showed 57 percent of men and 54 percent of women admitted to committing infidelity in any prior relationship... Openness: Those who are open to trying new things might be more likely to try infidelity as well... Dixit says men with high self-esteem and confidence are more likely to be unfaithful, while the opposite is true for women... age difference for infidelity is a bimodal distribution with men under 35 and over 60 years of age likely to cheat more. The same can be said for women in their 60s... “The more recent generations, the under 35 group, are perhaps a little less committed to the notion of marriage forever to one person just as there’s less commitment to one job for a lifetime”

Believing in TV romances could hurt your real-life relationship - "Those subjects who had a higher "belief" in romantic stories on television, as well as those who spent more time watching TV romance, were found to be less committed to their spouses and thought their alternatives to their spouse, including being single, were attractive options. They also felt that their real relationships "cost" them more in terms of personal freedoms and time spent alone -- and they were more aware of their partner's flaws."

Hung controversy draws focus from military's real importance - "Military forces around the world have not been known for their respect of human rights, nor their transparency. As organizations dedicated to the art and science of efficient eradication (or at least the incapacitation) of human beings designated as enemy, the armed forces can find themselves psychologically far-removed from the norms and rules of the civilian society they defend. Brigadier General John B. Murphy, a commanding general of Division Artillery of the U.S.' 100th Infantry Division during World War II, dismissed the idea of a democratic army as absurd, saying such a force would be an “undisciplined mob.” Many U.S. servicemen and women are probably still reminded of a similar philosophy by their boot camp sergeants: “You are here to defend democracy, not to practice it.” The significance of Taiwan's spectacular response to Hung's death is therefore twofold. First, it highlights the Taiwanese people's extraordinarily high regard for human rights. The 200,000 protesters amassing outside the Presidential Office for Hung showed the world the proudly humanistic spirit of Taiwan. It, however, also reveals the predicament of the nation's armed forces, which seem to have lost their purpose. The Taiwanese military should have built a reputation as one of the forces in the world most needed by its nation. It defends Taiwan from the world's most populous and armed (in terms of military size) nation, one which is also a major nuclear power. The mainland's People Liberation Army (PLA) has been advancing rapidly in recent years. Decades of military standoff and Taiwan's recent detente with the mainland seem to have stripped the military of its purpose and a substantial amount of respect."

Wisconsin Woman Accused of Holding Men Hostage for Sex - "Terry L. Boyd, 52, allegedly locked her roommate and another man inside a room at a residence on North Sixth Street, and refused to let them leave until one of the victims agreed to have sex with her."

Lawful Evil | Talking Philosophy - "While I am a professional philosopher, my view of ethics was significantly shaped by the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons alignment system... during WWII not all Germans were evil, but Germany acted as a rather evil nation. To be fair, most nations tend to be evil and, more specifically, lawful evil"

This charming charlie - "All images adapted from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic series. All words adapted from Smiths lyrics written by Morrissey."
Many of these wouldn't be out of place in the original strips

Switzerland builds £1.5m drive-in sex chalets so prostitutes can service clients in privacy - "Authorities in Zurich are trying an innovative way to regulate prostitution by introducing 'sex boxes' as discreet solicitation areas... The boxes are equipped with panic alarms which can be activated if the clients or prostitutes feel in any danger. The sex workers will have to register with a health insurer and buy a 'work ticket' each night for £3.50 each night that they work. Prostitution in Zurich will be confined to the booths and two other zones after they open. This is intended to curb the large numbers of prostitutes working in residential areas and in the city centre.
Discrimination against non-motorists! There're class implications (even motorcyclists can't use them)

Are women more petty than men?

Gabriel Seah's answer to Gender Differences: Are women more petty than men? - Quora

"We call someone petty when she is concerned or even obsessed with things of minor importance.

In Why Women Apologize More Than Men. Gender Differences in Thresholds for Perceiving Offensive Behavior (Psychological Science, Nov 2010) Schumann and Ross found that the stereotype that women apologise more than men is true.

Digging deeper, they found that this was because women had lower offence thresholds than men. In other words, they apologised more often because they perceived that they had offended other people more often. They were also more likely than men to judge scenarios as offensive.

The corollary of this is that women are more easily offended than men and so in general women appear more petty than men. The flip side is that men appear insensitive to women since they are less likely to view scenarios (and thus their actions or words) as offensive."

"Holmes makes some provocative empirical claims, for instance asserting that in her studies “[W]omen gave 75 per cent of all apologies and received 73 per cent of them.” Holmes also concludes that while women “use significantly more apologies than men,” they also “use more to each other than to men, and they use more to each other than men do to each other.”’ According to Holmes, both genders apologize to women more frequently than they do to men, regardless of the differential in social status between the parties.’ Women apologize most often to female friends, but men apologize most often to socially distant females.’ Women’s apologies rend to “recognize the claims of the person offended and focus on the harmony of the relationship,” while men “tend more than women to use strategies which focus on the apologizer’s loss of face and the resulting status imbalance.”’ She claims that women’s “apologies are predominantly directed to light offenses, whereas men use more apologies than women for more serious offenses.” Holmes also finds that women tend to apologize for breaches in conversational etiquette, while men “pay particular attention to” offenses against another’s time and property.’ When men do apologize, they use more formal language then women. Holmes also found that men reject proportionately more apologies than women do, and women respond to an apology with a counter-apology more often than men do."

--- I Was Wrong: The Meanings of Apologies / Nick Smith

(In other words, everyone is nicer to women than men)

Why Women Apologize More Than Men. Gender Differences in Thresholds for Perceiving Offensive Behavior:
Ed: link to similar paper by one author

"The diary findings both raise doubts about the validity of the claim that men actively resist apologizing and help explain the source of this claim. In their everyday lives, people witness women apologizing more than men and presumably attribute this discrepancy to gender differences in willingness to apologize. In doing so, they perhaps fail to consider the proportion of apologies to perceived offenses, information that is essen- tial in understanding the bases of frequency differences. A ten- dency to ignore the base rates of perceived offenses when estimating the frequency of apologies is consistent with peo- ple’s general tendency to neglect base rates when forming probability judgments (Kahneman & Tversky, 1973). Also, the popular tendency to ascribe men’s lower rates of apologizing to their unwillingness to apologize might stem, in part, from a propensity to prefer dispositional explanations (e.g., fragile egos) over situational ones (e.g., evaluations of the severity of the offense; Ross, 1977)...

In a study that examined teasing within couples, women reported more negative emotions in response to being teased than men reported. This finding suggests that women might be more sensitive to being offended, even if the offense is delivered in a humorous or loving manner (Keltner, Young, Heerey, Oemig, & Monarch, 1998)...

What is the psychological basis of gender differences in perceptions of the severity and frequency of offenses? One possibility is that women might perceive more offenses because they are more focused on the experiences of other people and on maintaining harmony in their relationships (Gilligan, 1994; J.B. Miller, 1984). Consistent with this idea, previous research has demonstrated that, relative to men, women report more guilt after committing transgressions (Bybee, 1998; Lutwak & Ferrari, 1996), greater empathy for victims (Eisenberg & Lennon, 1983), and more willingness to forgive their transgressors (A.J. Miller, Worthington, & McDaniel, 2008).

A second possibility is that men have a higher threshold for both physical and social pain. MacDonald and Leary (2005) argued that physical and social pain share common physiologi- cal mechanisms. Conceivably, if men are more resilient to physical pain, they might also have a higher threshold for social forms of pain. A substantial body of research has demonstrated that men report experiencing less intense and less frequent physical pain than women report experiencing (e.g., Unruh, 1996), as well as being less emotional than women (Barrett, Robin, Pietromonaco, & Eyssell, 1998). Further, a meta-analytic review of sex differences in coping behavior revealed that women rated stressors as more severe than men in the majority of studies that assessed stressor appraisals (Tamres, Janicki, & Helgeson, 2002). None of the reviewed studies reported that women rated stressors as less severe than men did.

[Ed: In other words, men are tougher than women despite the stereotype perpetuated by female magazines that men are big crybabies]

Whatever the basis of the gender differences in judgments of the severity or even the existence of offenses, these discrep- ant perceptions might have unfortunate consequences for mixed-gender interactions. For example, if women perceive offenses that their male romantic partners do not notice, women might interpret an absence of an apology as evidence that their partners are indifferent to their well-being. Similarly, men may regard their female partners as overly sensitive and emotional. Unlike previous interpretations that emphasized a gender difference in willingness to apologize, however, our interpretation does not imply that one gender is at fault for potential disagreements about whether an apology should be offered. Rather, we suggest that men and women unwittingly disagree at an earlier stage in the process: identifying whether or not a transgression has even occurred"

On the Pursuit of the Ideal

Isaiah Berlin's "Pursuit of the Ideal"

"There are, in my view, two factors that, above all others, have shaped human history in this century: one is the development of the natural sciences and technology, certainly the greatest success story of our time—to this, great and mounting attention has been paid from all quarters. The other, without doubt, consists in the great ideological storms that have altered the lives of virtually all mankind: the Russian Revolution and its aftermath—totalitarian tyrannies of both right and left and the explosions of nationalism, racism, and, in places, of religious bigotry, which, interestingly enough, not one among the most perceptive social thinkers of the nineteenth century had ever predicted.

When our descendants, in two or three centuries time (if mankind survives until then), come to look at our age, it is these two phenomena that will, I think, be held to be the outstanding characteristics of our century, the most demanding of explanation and analysis. But it is as well to realize that these great movements began with ideas in people's heads: ideas about what relations between men have been, are, might be, and should be; and to realize how they came to be transformed in the name of a vision of some supreme goal in the minds of the leaders, above all of the prophets with armies at their backs. Such ideas are the substance of ethics...

When I was young I read War and Peace by Tolstoy, much too early. The real impact on me of this great novel only came later, together with that of other Russian writers, both novelists and social thinkers, of the mid-nineteenth century. These writers did much to shape my outlook. It seemed to me, and still does, that the purpose of these writers was not principally to give realistic accounts of the lives and relationships to one another of individuals or social groups or classes, not psychological or social analysis for its own sake—although, of course, the best of them achieved precisely this, incomparably. Their approach seemed to me essentially moral: they were concerned most deeply with what was responsible for injustice, oppression, falsity in human relations, imprisonment whether by stone walls or conformism—unprotesting submission to man-made yokes—moral blindness, egoism, cruelty, humiliation, servility, poverty, helplessness, bitter indignation, despair, on the part of so many. In short, they were concerned with the nature of these experiences and their roots in the human condition; the condition of Russia in the first place, but, by implication, of all mankind. And conversely they wished to know what would bring about the opposite of this, a reign of truth, love, honesty, justice, security, personal relations based on the possibility of human dignity, decency, independence, freedom, spiritual fulfillment.

Some, like Tolstoy, found this in the outlook of simple people, unspoiled by civilization; like Rousseau, he wished to believe that the moral universe of peasants was not unlike that of children, not distorted by the conventions and institutions of civilization, which sprang from human vices—greed, egoism, spiritual blindness; that the world could be saved if only men saw the truth that lay at their feet; if they but looked, it was to be found in the Christian Gospels, the Sermon on the Mount. Others among these Russians put their faith in scientific rationalism, or in social and political revolution founded on a true theory of historical change. Others again looked for answers in the teachings of the Orthodox theology, or in liberal Western democracy, or in a return to ancient Slav values, obscured by the reforms of Peter the Great and his successors.

What was common to all these outlooks was the belief that solutions to the central problems existed, that one could discover them, and, with sufficient selfless effort, realize them on earth. They all believed that the essence of human beings was to be able to choose how to live: societies could be transformed in the light of true ideals believed in with enough fervor and dedication. If, like Tolstoy, they sometimes thought that man was not truly free but determined by factors outside his control, they knew well enough, as he did, that if freedom was an illusion it was one without which one could not live or think...

When I became a student at the University of Oxford, I began to read the works of the great philosophers, and found that the major figures, especially in the field of ethical and political thought, believed this too... The rationalists of the seventeenth century thought that the answers could be found by a species of metaphysical insight, a special application of the light of reason with which all men were endowed.

The empiricists of the eighteenth century, impressed by the vast new realms of knowledge opened by the natural sciences based on mathematical techniques, which had driven out so much error, superstition, dogmatic nonsense, asked themselves, like Socrates, why the same methods should not succeed in establishing similar irrefutable laws in the realm of human affairs. With the new methods discovered by natural science, order could be introduced into the social sphere as well—uniformities could be observed, hypotheses formulated, tested by experiment, laws based on them; and these laws in specific regions of experience could be seen to be entailed by wider laws; and these in turn to be entailed by still wider laws, and so on upward, until a great harmonious system, connected by unbreakable logical links and capable of being formulated in precise—that is, mathematical—terms, could be established.

The rational reorganization of society would put an end to spiritual and intellectual confusion, the reign of prejudice and superstition, blind obedience to unexamined dogmas, and the stupidities and cruelties of the oppressive regimes which such intellectual darkness bred and promoted. All that was wanted was the identification of the principal human needs and discovery of the means of satisfying them. This would create the happy, free, just, virtuous, harmonious world which Condorcet so movingly predicted in his prison cell in 1794. This view lay at the basis of all progressive thought in the nineteenth century, and was at the heart of much of the critical empiricism which I imbibed in Oxford as a student.

At some point I realized that what all these views had in common was a Platonic ideal: in the first place that, as in the sciences, all genuine questions must have one true answer and one only, all the rest being necessarily errors. In the second place, that there must be a dependable path toward the discovery of these truths. In the third place, that the true answers, when found, must necessarily be compatible with one another and form a single whole, for one truth cannot be incompatible with another—that we knew a priori. This kind of omniscience was the solution of the cosmic jigsaw puzzle. In the case of morals, we could then conceive what the perfect life must be, founded as it would be on a correct understanding of the rules that governed the universe.

True, we might never get to this condition of perfect knowledge—we may be too feeble-witted, or too weak or corrupt or sinful, to achieve this. The obstacles, both intellectual and those of external nature, may be too many. Moreover, opinions, as I said, had widely differed about the right path to pursue—some found it in churches, some in laboratories; some believed in intuition, others in experiment, or in mystical visions, or in mathematical calculation. But even if we could not ourselves reach these true answers, or indeed, the final system that interweaves them all, the answers must exist—else the questions were not real. The answers must be known to someone; perhaps Adam in Paradise knew; perhaps we shall only reach them at the end of days; if men cannot know them, perhaps the angels know; and if not the angels, then God knows. These timeless truths must in principle be knowable.

Some nineteenth-century thinkers—Hegel, Marx—thought it was not quite so simple. There were no timeless truths. There was historical development, continuous change; human horizons altered with each new step in the evolutionary ladder; history was a drama with many acts; it was moved by conflicts of forces in the realms of both ideas and reality, sometimes called dialectical, which took the form of wars, revolutions, violent upheavals of nations, classes, cultures, movements. Yet after inevitable setbacks, failures, relapses, returns to barbarism, Condorcet's dream would come true. The drama would have a happy ending—man's reason had achieved triumphs in the past, it could not be held back forever. Men would no longer be victims of nature or of their own largely irrational societies: reason would triumph: universal harmonious cooperation, true history, would at last begin.

For if this was not so, do the ideas of progress, of history, have any meaning?...

Intercommunication between cultures in time and space is only possible because what makes men human is common to them, and acts as a bridge between them. But our values are ours, and theirs are theirs. We are free to criticize the values of other cultures, to condemn them, but we cannot pretend not to understand them at all, or to regard them simply as subjective, the products of creatures in different circumstances with different tastes from our own, which do not speak to us at all...

What is clear is that values can clash—that is why civilizations are incompatible... Values may easily clash within the breast of a single individual; and it does not follow that, if they do, some must be true and others false. Justice, rigorous justice, is for some people an absolute value, but it is not compatible with what may be no less ultimate values for them—mercy, compassion, as arises in concrete cases...

The notion of the perfect whole, the ultimate solution, in which all good things coexist, seems to me to be not merely unattainable—that is a truism—but conceptually incoherent... We are doomed to choose, and every choice may entail an irreparable loss. Happy are those who live under a discipline which they accept without question, who freely obey the orders of leaders, spiritual or temporal, whose word is fully accepted as unbreakable law; or those who have, by their own methods, arrived at clear and unshakeable convictions about what to do and what to be that brook no possible doubt. I can only say that those who rest on such comfortable beds of dogma are victims of forms of self-induced myopia, blinkers that may make for contentment, but not for understanding of what it is to be human...

Any study of society shows that every solution creates a new situation which breeds its own new needs and problems, new demands. The children have obtained what their parents and grandparents longed for—greater freedom, greater material welfare, a juster society; but the old ills are forgotten, and the children face new problems, brought about by the very solutions of the old ones, and these, even if they can in turn be solved, generate new situations, and with them new requirements—and so on, forever—and unpredictably.

We cannot legislate for the unknown consequences of consequences of consequences. Marxists tell us that once the fight is won and true history has begun, the new problems that may arise will generate their own solutions, which can be peacefully realized by the united powers of harmonious, classless society. This seems to me a piece of metaphysical optimism for which there is no evidence in historical experience. In a society in which the same goals are universally accepted, problems can only be of means, all soluble by technological methods. That is a society in which the inner life of man, the moral and spiritual and aesthetic imagination no longer speak at all—is it for this that men and women should be destroyed or societies enslaved? Utopias have their value—nothing so wonderfully expands imaginative horizons of human potentialities—but as guides to conduct they can prove literally fatal. Heraclitus was right, things cannot stand still.

So I conclude that the very notion of a final solution is not only impracticable but, if I am right, and some values cannot but clash, incoherent also. The possibility of a final solution—even if we forget the terrible sense that these words acquired in Hitler's day—turns out to be an illusion; and a very dangerous one. For, if one really believes that such a solution is possible, then surely no cost would be too high to obtain it: to make mankind just and happy and creative and harmonious forever—what could be too high a price to pay for that? To make such an omelette, there is surely no limit to the number of eggs that should be broken—that was the faith of Lenin, of Trotsky, of Mao, for all I know, of Pol Pot. Since I know the only true path to the ultimate solution of the problems of society, I know which way to drive the human caravan; and since you are ignorant of what I know, you cannot be allowed to have liberty of choice even within the narrowest limits, if the goal is to be reached. You declare that a given policy will make you happier, or freer, or give you room to breathe; but I know that you are mistaken, I know what you need, what all men need; and if there is resistance based on ignorance or malevolence, then it must be broken and hundreds of thousands may have to perish to make millions happy for all time. What choice have we, who have the knowledge, but to be willing to sacrifice them all?

Some armed prophets seek to save mankind, and some only their own race because of its superior attributes, but whichever the motive, the millions slaughtered in wars or revolutions—gas chambers, gulag, genocide, all the monstrosities for which our century will be remembered—are the price men must pay for the felicity of future generations. If your desire to save mankind is serious, you must harden your heart, and not reckon the cost.

The answer to this was given more than a century ago by the Russian radical Alexander Herzen. In his essay "From the Other Shore," which is in effect an obituary notice of the revolutions of 1848, he said that a new form of human sacrifice had arisen in his time—of living human beings on the altars of abstractions—nation, church, party, class, progress, the forces of history—these have all been invoked in his day and in ours: if these demand the slaughter of living human beings, they must be satisfied...

'The one thing that we may be sure of is the reality of the sacrifice, the dying and the dead. But the ideal for the sake of which they die remains unrealized. The eggs are broken, and the habit of breaking them grows, but the omelette remains invisible. Sacrifices for short-term goals, coercion, if men's plight is desperate enough and truly requires such measures, may be justified. But holocausts for the sake of distant goals, that is a cruel mockery of all that men hold dear, now and at all times'...

Revolutions, wars, assassinations, extreme measures may in desperate situations be required. But history teaches us that their consequences are seldom what is anticipated; there is no guarantee, not even, at times, a high enough probability, that such acts will lead to improvement. We may take the risk of drastic action, in personal life or in public policy, but we must always be aware, never forget, that we may be mistaken, that certainty about the effect of such measures invariably leads to avoidable suffering of the innocent. So we must engage in what are called tradeoffs—rules, values, principles must yield to each other in varying degrees in specific situations. Utilitarian solutions are sometimes wrong but, I suspect, more often beneficent. The best that can be done, as a general rule, is to maintain a precarious equilibrium that will prevent the occurrence of desperate situations, of intolerable choices—that is the first requirement for a decent society; one that we can always strive for, in the light of the limited range of our knowledge, and even of our imperfect understanding of individuals and societies. A certain humility in these matters is very necessary...

There are, if not universal values, at any rate a minimum without which societies could scarcely survive. Few today would wish to defend slavery or ritual murder or Nazi gas chambers or the torture of human beings for the sake of pleasure or profit or even political good—or the duty of children to denounce their parents, which the French and Russian revolutions demanded, or mindless killing. There is no justification for compromise on this. But on the other hand, the search for perfection does seem to me a recipe for bloodshed, no better even if it is demanded by the sincerest of idealists, the purest of heart. No more rigorous moralist than Immanuel Kant has ever lived, but even he said, in a moment of illumination, "Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made." To force people into the neat uniforms demanded by dogmatically believed-in schemes is almost always the road to inhumanity. We can only do what we can: but that we must do, against difficulties."
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