Posts Tagged ‘Robert Solomon’

passion for wisdom

January 20, 2011

“Doubt is the father of invention.” Galileo

“The ‘spirit of the times,’ moving through time.” That’s what we’re chasing, in Intro to Philosophy and Passion for Wisdom. But ultimately we want more than a snapshot of something abstract and transient. We want to make sense of time and spirit, situate ourselves in relation to them, and find something constructive to do with and through them. That’s a tall order, but on our second full day of class it still feels like we’ve got all the time in the world. (Beware that feeling, young people, it can trick you. But enjoy it while it lasts.)

The preface of this book, which I’m very attached to because I’ve been using it to introduce students to philosophy for many moons now, insists that the spirit of philosophy is no dusty relic on a museum shelf. It’s “dynamic and ongoing,” and sooner or later I guess I’ll find a new text to replace this one. But not yet. Bob Solomon had a warm, wonderful way of engaging students. I think he still does.

Note, btw, the last philosopher listed in PW’s  timeline: MLK, Jr. By my reckoning he played for my team, being a kind of Pragmatist. (Read his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” if you doubt it.) The best kind, in fact: he got things done, deliberately suffering and sacrificing to do so. (See last Monday’s posts.)

Philosophy has been around at least since our predecessors became aware of death and began looking for ways to cheat it- or at least remove its sting. It didn’t save our oft-maligned cousins the Neanderthals, whose cranial capacity actually exceeded ours. It remains to be seen if it will save us.

Written and recorded philosophy isn’t quite so old. The Vedas come originally from India.

Zoroaster‘s god now has an unfortunate nominal resemblance to a model of compact car. (Can you name Him?) He “was on the side of the good, but good and evil are present in all of us.” That’s still a common view, but as we’ll soon see it makes trouble for the notion of omni-divinity.

We have a Confucius institute at our university (as do a few others), and it might surprise many of us to realize just how many Confucians (and Buddhists) there are in the world. (Some worry, btw, about the implications of these government-sponsored entities for academic freedom.)

And Taoists, whose view of life and death is subtle and interesting (and, I noted in the Native Wisdom class yesterday, somewhat congruent with the indigenous view about nature and spirit).  Taoists and Confucians differ in interestingly subtle ways that mirror a spiritual choice we all face sooner or later when deciding where our greatest loyalties lie.

(If you really want to grasp the Tao, check out the Pooh-bear- or Benjamin’s Hoff‘s version, anyway.)

The ancient Greeks were borrowers: got their alphabet from the Phoenicians, their architecture from Egypt, and a surprising lot from Iraq. Also from Egypt they got Dionysus (aka Osiris), god of wine and fun, harbinger of eternity.

“Better never to have been born…” Speak for yourself, Silenus. (You’d never guess he was Dionysus’s sidekick, from that statement.) He was deploring the chaos of existence, and its inevitable pain. The same hunger for law-like order in the universe created the quest for logos.

Once again, just so everybody’s got it: philosophy means the love of wisdom. But, what is that again? Another great big book on the subject has again recently been published, this one by Stephen Hall and with an interest in contemporary neuroscience (just like David Brooks’s recent piece in the New Yorker). Maybe someone will want to take a look at it and work up a report, before the semester ends?


November 25, 2010

“Gratitude is a bridge to your positive future.” [Thank Who Very MuchThank Goodness...Thank Epic Existence]

“If given the opportunity to live your life over and over again ad infinitum, forced to go through all of the pain and the grief of existence, would you be overcome with despair? Or would you fall to your knees in gratitude?”

That question changed philosopher Robert Solomon‘s life.

One can take one’s life and its advantages for granted, but how much better it is to acknowledge not only those advantages but one’s gratitude for them.

…it involves an admission of our vulnerability and our dependence on other people. The Psychology of Gratitude

Solomon collapsed and died of pulmonary hypertension on January 2, 2007 while changing planes at Zurich airport.

Happy Thanksgiving.

sustainable satisfaction

June 18, 2010

Just one more Generosity post, for now, so I can discharge this current obsession and look for another to latch onto.

Richard Powers is one of those literary writers–like Percy, Updike, Stegner, Ford– best read with pen and notebook constantly to hand,  so many and memorable are his striking aphoristic lines. To wit,

a sharp blue filament of need makes him want to see what will happen to the species, long after he’s dead…

An endlessly useful & preserved trait: the ability to revise  at will. ‘All writing is re-writing’…

Mobile is the last thing in existence he wants to be. His every original thought is already being interrupted by real time…

…[there’s a] massive structural flaw in the way the brain processes delight. The machinery of gladness that Homo sapiens evolved over millions of years in the bush is an evolutionary hangover in the world that Homo sapiens has built…

Depression had its uses once, when mankind was on the run. But now that we’re somewhat safe, it’s time to free the subjugated populace and show what the race can do, armed with sustainable satisfaction at last…

That’s what the brain-body loop does, anyway [make up its own autobiographical details]: it’s not the traumas Thomas remembers that shape Thomas — not so long as Thomas shapes the traumas Thomas remembers…

But this is when the story is at its most desperate: when techne and sophia are still kin, when the distant climax is still ambiguous, the outcome a dead heat between salvation and ruin

He launches his slow Internet connection, then stares at the search-engine box, wondering how to initiate a search for unreasonable delight. He taps in manic depression, and deletes that, too. He taps in extreme well-being. And right away, he’s swamped. In the world of free information, the journey of a single step begins in a thousand microcommunities. Inconceivable hours of global manpower have already trampled over every thought he might have and run it to earth with boundless ingenuity.  Even that thought, a digitally proliferating cliche…

He tries to say things that won’t look ludicrous, copied down…

The genes of discontentment are loose, and painting the universe. Life’s job is to get out of their way…

Fate has no power over anything crucial… What we have been is as nothing; what we will be is ever beyond us.  But what kind of story would ever end with us?

This is what the Algerian tells me: live first, decide later. Love the genre that you most suspect. Good judgment will spare you nothing, least of all your life…

Flow, words: there’s only one story, and it’s filled with doubles. The time for deciding how much you like it is after you’re dead.

“The Algerian” here is Powers’ protagonist Thassa, who– like the other gifted and challenged Algerian, Camus, and his subject Sisyphus– we finally must imagine to be happy.

There’s no single point to a memorable work of art, but I take this point away from Generosity:

“What we will be is ever beyond us,” lasting satisfaction can only be sustained by feet planted firmly on the ground of the present, but: we owe the future our best transmission, too. There is indeed a perpetual challenge to us, in this, but no contradiction. Real generosity to the future gives all to the now.

wisdom of Solomon

April 13, 2010

We finish Solomon’s Spirituality for the Skeptic today. I find much to admire in his approach, though I’m not so willing to spin “poor Nietzsche’s antipathy” as sympathetically as he. [reviewPigliucci]

“I am dynamite!” is more than simply the announcement of an audacious new brand of spirituality, it is the defensive ego-blast of a lonely, insecure hermetic misanthrope. But it’s still fun to read:

I am not a man, I am dynamite. And with it all there is nought of the founder of a religion in me. Religions are matters for the mob ; after coming in contact with a religious man I always feel I must wash my hands; I require no “believers,” I am too full of malice to believe in even myself. I am horribly frightened that one day I shall be pronounced “holy.” I refuse to be a saint, I would rather be a clown. Maybe I am a clown… and the mouthpiece of truth. But my truth is terrible; for hitherto lies have been called the truth. The Transvaluation of all Values, this is my formula for mankind’s greatest step towards coming to its senses– a step which in me became flesh and genius. My destiny ordained that I should be the first decent human being… I was the first to discover truth… Ecce Homo

And the next thing we know, he’s hugging a horse and proclaiming himself Jesus and Alexander. You can call it spirituality if you like, I call it syphilitic madness. A fruitful madness, though, with plenty in it worth talking about. But this guy should be nobody’s role model, pasted on no disaffected teenager‘s bedroom wall.

Consider: as Nietzsche scratched out those lines in his Swiss garret, announcing his unique superiority to all other members of his species, James was wrapping up Principles of Psychology and delineating the common organic  threads that bind us all together. What a contrast. He writes:

The mood of a Schopenhauer or a Nietzsche, though often an ennobling sadness, is almost as often only peevishness running away with the bit between its teeth.  The sallies of the two German authors remind one, half the time, of the sick shriekings of two dying rats.  They lack the purgatorial note which religious sadness gives forth.

And then James cites an extended passage in Genealogy of Morals, and then is moved to deplore "poor Nietzsche's antipathy." But he also adds: "but we know what he means," and acknowledges the seriousness of the issue at hand.
For Nietzsche the saint represents little but sneakingness and slavishness.  He is the sophisticated invalid, the degenerate par excellence, the man of insufficient vitality.  His prevalence would put the human type in danger... "The sick are the greatest danger for the well.  The weaker, not the stronger, are the strong's undoing. if health, success, strength, pride, and the sense of power were in themselves things vicious, for which one ought eventually to make bitter expiation.  Oh, how these people would themselves like to inflict the expiation, how they thirst to be the hangmen! And all the while their duplicity never confesses their hatred to be hatred." [VRE]
Solomon is spontaneously humane and compassionate, precisely where his hero is hard-hearted and insensitive and disgusted by "weakness." Nietzsche was not a great-souled man in the Aristotelian mold, nor is it clear how the "greatness" of wanting nothing different than it is can be distinguished from stoicism or resignation.

However, let us not get stuck in more small antipathies. His persevering embrace of hardship and the polemical energy of his pile-driver prose can be stirring. What I like about this book:

Following up the ch.4 aside about professional philosophers who are rational, reflective, and devoid of passion and spirituality, note my snarky invidious comparison the other day. For the record, and as James would say: I was probably missing the whole inward significance, for my classmate, of the epistemology enterprise. We don’t all wear our passions on our sleeves. Fair enough. But still, there are relatively passionless scholars out there. Lots of them, in fact, and most would happily renounce any interest in spirituality. Their perfect right.

Ch.5. Solomon says the naturalistic version of the problem of evil is marked by the insufferable “why me” whining of those who consider themselves entitled to the universe’s particular solicitude. Good point. But is it really true that there is no problem of evil at all for those who hold low or no expectations for the world’s goodness? Evil and suffering are existential problems for us all, and an added challenge for those meliorists who seek meaning and purpose in their progressive diminution.

Solomon likes James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis and notes with approval its affinity for the Taoist quest to harmonize with (and as part of) nature.  Dawkins, we saw in Unweaving the Rainbow, considers the whole thing too New Agey, and now Lovelock apparently agrees with him. But isn’t there some sense in developing this metaphor, so long as we don’t imagine Mother Earth literally to have a mind of her own? Aren’t we it, in fact, the only developed consciousness on the planet? Earth has an ecological intelligence, we can say metaphorically. But we have the brains, and we’re the only ones with a vested stake in the continuance of human beings on this rock.

Nietzsche’s declaration that he was an “atheist by instinct” srikes an interesting contrast to those (like Michael Shermer in the Wall Street Journal last week) who contend that we’re hard-wired to seek God. There are instinctive atheists for whom the God hypothesis entirely fails to resonate, no? Whole cultures and traditions of them, in fact. Didn’t we learn that from Jennifer Hecht?

Time and space grow short. Some stubs:

Ch.6. Dennett, Vonnegut, determinism vs. fatalism, luck, chance, scientism, eternal recurrence… “People die before their time.”

Ch.7. Socrates hated life? Or was it Plato? In any event, Solomon is right (isn’t he?) to say that the meaning of death comes down to the meaning of life. That’s the better frame, as James and Spinoza would agree. And death indeed is not the end, if we can transcend our narrow little selves and identify with the species. Why can’t we?

Ch.8. Curiously, Hegel and Nietzsche are teamed to make a case for the wider self of “Geist, ” for a compassionate community of souls together breathing life into Spirit and the zeitgeist. Sure looks like Fritz is being bent over backward to fit the kinder, gentler dimensions of this program (caring, love, reverence, trust).

But if that’s what survives his dispatch of “soul atoms,” maybe it’s not so important whether he gets with the program in all its details. Or if his “hypersensitive nature” throws up a rhetorical smokescreen behind which lurks a hidden pussycat.  It’s too late, under the moving finger of fate, to worry much about Nietzsche’s status and legacy. The more pressing question: can you and I enjoy a naturalized spirituality as we live forward in our time, and cultivate a thoughtful love of life?

What have we got to lose by trying? The tremendous effort to discover or realize our better selves is what spirituality is all about. This naturalized notion of spirituality is, in this narcissistic and materialist age, something well worth striving for.

Superman, though, is not.

cosmic trust

April 8, 2010

The author of Passion for Wisdom has plenty to say about passion, wisdom, reason, and much else. He was a great advocate of gratitude, a gifted teacher, and (not least) a lover of fine natural spirits. His approach is reminiscent of Dewey’s “natural piety.” But the centerpiece of today’s reading in Spirituality for the Skeptic, for me, is the concept of “cosmic trust.”

Bob Solomon trusted a universe that, indifferently of course and without personal malice, swept him away at an age most of us think of as before anyone’s “time.” He collapsed in a Zurich airport in December 2007, a youthful sixty-something. That untimely end makes so much of what he writes in this book tug poignantly at the heartstrings.

Trust, with passion and love, forms the tripod of Solomon’s version of naturalized spirituality. It entails risk and a certain lack of control, it cultivates as much of Nietzsche’s “amor fati” as seems reasonable but, Solomon wisely acknowledges, we  cannot accept everything. Open-eyed affirmation is not the same as Panglossian stupidity, but it is a form of optimism. The world is not the best possible, but we must all  still do what we can to push it along in that direction. Pessimism doesn’t push hard enough. Metaphysical optimism doesn’t really push at all, trusting too much. The affirmation Solomon advises looks more like James’s meliorism, with no guarantees of smooth sailing and the ever-looming threat of shipwreck. And so we sail on, as Mr. Fitzgerald said, boats against the current scanning for the green light of home (and the promise of an “orgiastic future”).

Cosmic trust inevitably conjures Carl Sagan and his quest for the feeling of being “at home in the universe.” It’s an “ontological security” in one’s own existence and confidence in one’s place in the world.” We’re all entitled to that, though Solomon rightly rejects feelings of exclusive personal entitlement. This “at home-ness” is our common birthright, as children of the cosmos. We’re not strangers in a strange land here at all, there’s no place else we need to get to. Maybe we could borrow Jennifer Hecht‘s sign?

Or Crash Davis’s line: “It’s a long season, you gotta trust it.” Life, that is. We must live as though we knew it to be a long season. Tomorrow’s another day, right up until it isn’t. Stay within yourself. Give 110%. [Bull Durham: cliches…”I believe“…William Blake]

We should secretly admit otherwise, to ourselves, as we go about the daily busy-ness of our lives, and then file that admission away for future use. It’s really much too short to end at any age, but it can feel long and it will, when we slide safely and trustingly into home. Remember: home is not elsewhere, it’s where we begin and where we end. It closes the circuit. Touch ’em all.

(Here is where I should acknowledge Solomon’s ambivalence towards sports and sports metaphors. Who could blame him, a transplant deep in the heart of Texas, where rabid Longhorns– like rabid partisans everywhere– seem constantly on the verge of madness? I’m ambivalent about it too, and there’s no question the “us versus them” mentality it models is one of the scourges of our species. But darn it, it’s just fun to have a home team to root for. And rooted.)

Spirituality is about moving on, forgiving the world for the misfortunes it (inevitably) inflicts upon us. Thus spirituality is also called wisdom. Setting sail after hitting hard shoals is a forgiving form of spiritual wisdom, too.

Cosmic trust is also about cosmic responsibility, which we must accept if we’re ever going to survive and flourish. Mostly, for now, it seems many of us are still stuck in what K. Antony Appiah calls the pre-cosmopolitan “if you don’t want to be my brother, I’ll bash your skull in” phase of our evolution.

Where do you want to go today?

March 29, 2010

That was Bill Gates’s old question, not unlike ours in Intro today (as posed by Bob Solomon & Kathy Higgins): “Where to, Humanity? Mill, Darwin, and Nietzsche”… and not unlike the instigating question in next Fall’s new “Future of Life” course.

I worked up a slideshow on this, after discovering the Slideshare tool over the weekend and having no trouble at all putting up my baseball shows. This morning it’s balking. I’ll keep working on it. Meanwhile, the story can be summarized thusly:

J.S. Mill (of his own free will) articulated a vision of human good as a progressive, perpetual  historical expansion of human rights and individual liberties. The only reason for limiting any person’s freedom is in order to protect the freedom of others. His “harm principle” says do your thing, just don’t interfere with anyone else’s right and opportunity to do the same. (And he meant anyone’s, women included. His friend Harriet helped him see the light on that.)

Charles Darwin‘s revolutionary account of evolution by natural selection cast that enterprise in a new light. As Dan Dennett would put it much later, freedom evolves and so do we.  That ought to bode well for Mill’s project and ours. But this suggests a momentous question: Could humans still be evolving? If so, into what? Could we be living some brief, intermediary existence between the “lower” animals and some higher, mightier, or more adaptive creature than ourselves? [Charles & EmmaDawkins & Dennett on D…his birthday and Abe‘s…ScopesBBCPBS]

Enter Fritz Nietzsche, offering the incredible suggestion that human beings were nothing but a bridge between the ape and the Ubermensch. The future of human nature was now called into question. What will we make ourselves, what will humanity become? [Drunk on the ground]

Good question. Is the suggestion really so incredible? Some have found it inspiring, others terrifying. We’ll see if we find it instigating in class.

And we’ll wonder if, in the immortal words of CSNY, we have all been here before. Deja vu all over again, Yogi? Or do we only go around once, and need to grab the gusto while we can? Or was that precisely the point of Fritz’s gift to his shrink? Isn’t it also, btw, what “Phil” learned in Groundhog Day? (Woody in Manhattan, too…)

natural piety

January 28, 2010

We ended cryptically in A&S on Tuesday, with William James’s intriguing statement (in bold):

The problem I have set myself is a hard one: first, to defend (against all the prejudices of my “class”) “experience”against “philosophy” as being the real backbone of the world’s religious life—I mean prayer, guidance, and all that sort of thing immediately and privately felt, as against high and noble general views of our destiny and the world’s meaning; and second, to make the hearer or reader believe, what I myself invincibly do believe, that, although all the special manifestations of religion may have been absurd (I mean its creeds and theories), yet the life of it as a whole is mankind’s most important function. A task well-nigh impossible, I fear, and in which I shall fail; but to attempt it is my religious act.

Today we bring two more voices into our conversation, to take a crack at interpreting James’s meaning. Robert Solomon and Andre Comte-Sponville join James, Sagan, Sweeney, Dawkins, and a host of naturalists, humanists, and Brights in our expanding circle.  I wonder how they’d respond to the 1904 questionnaire that James answered this way:

Do you believe in personal immortality? “Never keenly; but more strongly as I grow older.” Do you pray? “I cannot possibly pray—I feel foolish and artificial.” What do you mean by ‘spirituality’? “Susceptibility to ideals, but with a certain freedom to indulge in imagination about them. A certain amount of ‘other worldly’ fancy. Otherwise you have mere morality, or ‘taste.'” What do you mean by a ‘religious experience’? “Any moment of life that brings the reality of spiritual things more ‘home’ to one.”

French philosopher Andre Comte-Sponville, in The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality, seems very Deweyan to me. We don’t need to invent new values, we need to transmit the good old ones (with value-added) so that those who come after us may receive it more solid and secure, more widely accessible and more generously shared than we have received it. Such “fidelity” runs deeper and wider than mere faith. It expands our sense of self, giving us something larger than ourselves (but not larger than nature, society, and history) to work for.

In Spirituality for the Skeptic Robert Solomon urges a return to philosophy’s close earlier kinship to spirituality. He actually mentions Dewey: Although one might identify spirituality in terms of what John Dewey once called a “religious attitude,” spirituality is a much broader concept than the rather specialized notion of religion… Spirituality is a human phenomenon… spirituality and intelligence go hand in hand… spirituality is not primarily a matter of beliefs… spirituality and science at their best are kindred spirits…

And: The point, which I share with Hegel and Nietzsche, is to cast the net of spirituality as wide as possible. That’s Deweyan too: it’s all about charting our relations to the totality of nature and other people. “Natural piety,” Dewey called it. “The thoughtful love of life” is Solomon’s Hallmark-card slogan.

PW 1.1

January 25, 2010

I’ve been using this little bookPassion for Wisdom, which attempts to render the history of philosophy at a break-neck pace (128 pages… and it flies even faster in the Kindle edition), as a centerpiece (or “spine”)  in my Intro courses for many years. Last semester’s different approach was ok, but I think we’ll have better luck with Passion restored to pre-eminence. So, today we kick off our weekly Monday readings from it with a particular focus on the classic “problem of evil.”  PW 1

The monotheistic version of the question’s been around for at least 2,600 years, since the time of Zoroaster in Persia (who inspired Nietzsche’s Zarathustra): “How can God allow so much suffering and wrongdoing [from human malfeasance, natural disasters, etc.] in the world?” More non-theists attribute their inability to believe in a benevolent deity to this problem than to any other cause. As the philosopher David Hume (echoing Epicurus) put it in the 18th century: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

The most common reply: free will. But what’s that got to do with earthquakes in Lisbon and San Francisco and Haiti? What’s it got to do with innocent children who get swept away in floods and tsunamis and tornadoes and hurricanes? Suppose you’re a kindergarten teacher, and you sit idly by while little Johnny pokes his classmates’ eyes out?  “I gave him the stick but it was his free choice to use it that way.” Not so impressive a defense, especially if you possess omniscience.

And omnipotence and moral perfection and a little common sense. Good people aren’t robots, so why couldn’t God have created only people like them, people who quite freely live good lives? As the Archbishop of York said recently of Haiti, “I have nothing to say to make sense of this horror.” That’s one bishop with more sense than Pat Robertson. (But my dog has more sense than Pat Robertson.) He knows (as does Dan Dennett) there’s no verbal solution to this problem.

This semester I’m also using another book by Solomon for the first time, in A&S: Spirituality for the Skeptic.

Coincidentally: my iPod clock radio woke me yesterday to a Philosophy Bites podcast featuring a philosopher from UNC, Marilyn Adams. She contends that optimists can only sustain their optimism by believing in some “Super-human” power capable of “making good” on all the suffering and evil that can befall humans in this life. That view didn’t look so promising to Voltaire, at least not through Leibniz‘s “best possible world” spectacles.

And there are other problems with the picture of a controlling divine over-seer whose all-seeing, all-knowing micro-management might seem less than nice to those whose personal destiny is less than the best.

Robert Solomon was an optimist, and a skeptic about super-human powers. He didn’t agree with Professor Adams at all, as we’ll discuss.

When I think of Solomon, my first thought is of his cameo appearance in a strange and wondrous film called Waking Life. And then I think of what Thoreau said about wakefulness– “to be awake is to be alive”– and that brings my mental train inevitably to the now-slumbering Warren Zevon, who said “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”…

I need to get that on my iPod!


December 29, 2009

Robert Solomon writes: “Philosophy and spirituality were once kin. There were no sharp divisions between philosophy and religion, or religion and mythology, or theology and religious practice and ritual, or a rational view of the world and a passionate one. (Socrates was but one of the most famous philosophers who exemplified both reason and eros.) Now, spirituality has been kidnapped by religion. Indeed, more than a few religious sects and cults define spirituality as exclusively particular to themselves. ‘To be spiritual is to believe in God, in exactly this way!'”

Oh, no it’s not. Stay tuned.


November 23, 2009

I’ve been using this little book, which attempts to render the history of philosophy at a break-neck pace (128 pages… and it flies even faster in the Kindle edition), as a centerpiece in my Intro courses for many years. This semester I’ve saved it for last, hoping to provide a bit more historical perspective than the same authors’ topically-arranged Big Questions achieved. I’ll be going back to the old approach next time. (I know where to find a much cheaper version of at least one “big question.”)

The  brooding thinker doesn’t really represent my idea of philosophy anyway. A little sitting-and-thinking is fine, but I prefer the perambulating, peripatetic spirit of motion and activity. The best ideas come while walking, said Nietzsche (who showed, in spite of himself, that the worst ones do, too).

Philosophy is something you do, not something you just ponder. I did enjoy the art history lessons.

I’m a big fan of the late Robert Solomon (his widow Kathleen Higgins, still at the University of Texas in Austin, published the latest edition of Big Questions just after his untimely death in a Swiss airport a couple of holiday seasons ago). He also wrote Spirituality for the Skeptic, which we’ll be reading in the “Atheism & Spirituality” course next semester. In that book, love of living is the simple essence of spirit– made poignant by our knowledge of the author’s own foreshortened fate, which he would remind us is inevitably our own. We must not take a moment of life for granted.

Solomon: “Whether or not there is a God to be thanked seems not the issue to me. It is the  importance and the significance of being thankful, to whomever or whatever, for life itself.” Thank who? Thank God, thank goodness, or thank pitchforks and pointed ears. But give thanks. Gratitude is a renewable resource, and then some. It’ll leave you feeling gratified.

He was a critic of overly-narrow, technical philosophy that, with “mind-numbing thinness,” fails to speak to ordinary human concerns. He was the sort of academic philosopher you might look for, if you were inclined to look for one,  in a popular film like Waking Life: