Reflections on Aphorisms #107

Well, today was more productive than the last couple days, so that’s a good start. Car’s fixed, life’s good.

I’m still feeling some lingering anxiety, perhaps from the past couple weeks, perhaps due to money. I’m not hurting on money right now, but I’m basically barely breaking even and using savings to pay for my master’s program. In the long-run, I think that’s a good strategy if it works, but in the short term it’s risky.

Aphorism 147

The most deceitful persons spend their lives in blaming deceit, so as to use it on some great occasion to promote some great interest. (Maxim 124)

François de La Rochefoucauld


One of the things that I often find myself dealing with is the idea that I might be myself one of the liars that I claim to detest.

Of course, I don’t think that this is true (though you’ll have to take my word for it), but I’ve always wondered about the idea of self-deception.

I’ve been reading some of Kazuo Ishiguro’s work again, and one of the things that is a recurring theme in his work is the idea of self-deception and how it colors our concepts of the world around us. Particularly in The Remains of the Day, which might be one of his more famous works, this sort of self-deception in memory is a common staple in his work.

I’m not entirely sure that I’m dishonest, but if I am it’s (typically–I have not achieved moral perfection and likely never will) without my own awareness of it.

I used to find Descartes interesting, but a little eccentric. I personally adhere to a deontological philosophy (albeit a nuanced one), and I’ve found some of Descartes’ teachings interesting.

But I always used to find Descartes’ demon something of a self-indulgent thought exercise.

After all, I’m sort of a meat and potatoes guy, and I’ve always been of the idea that the simplest solution is typically the most likely. If I see and feel things, that means that they’re there. One can trust one’s perceptions when they present things that are simple.

But part of the problem with this is that there’s a major distinction between perception and consciousness.

I may perceive a light, but am I conscious of it? Most of the time, probably not, if we’re being honest. My desk lamp is something that I think of only when it is too dark and I become conscious of the lack of light, or when something goes wrong and I must get it going again.

For most of my waking, even if I sit at my desk, I am not conscious of the lamp. It sits in my field of vision, but I have culled it from my awareness because it is not something interesting. I do consider it quite a good lamp, but that’s not even enough to make me aware of its presence (and small little bouts of gratitude about everyday things like that would probably improve my life quite a bit).

If I am not really conscious of something that sits in front of me almost all the time, how can I be conscious of the greater meaning of existence?

It seems unlikely.

The only way to be honest is to admit that I am flawed and may not be reliable.


Never assume that I am correct in my assumptions.

Make statements of truth carefully.

Don’t make doubt out to be a vice.

Reflections on Aphorisms #78

Been getting a lot done recently. If I had been worried whether or not I was on the right track, I could at least claim to be more certain now.

Of course, what can any of us truly know?

At the very least, I can hope to be on the right track, and devote myself to noble pursuits.

Aphorism 116

Neither the sun nor death can be looked at without winking.

François de La Rochefoucauld


The sublime Empyrean resides above us, the depths of Hell below.

We have the potential to work toward either, but both are metaphysical. They cannot be expressed or contemplated strictly within our mortal framework.

What Rouchefoucauld gets at here is the notion that there are things that we cannot bear directly, both in terms of our comprehension and our psychological ability to handle things.

The sun–metaphorically understood as God–and death–the negative counterpart of life–are both things that we cannot directly confront, but so is the axiomatic and ultimate nature of good and evil itself.

The greatest things in life are blessings that we cannot hope to comprehend. This is true across time and cultures. A faithful child, a loyal spouse, and a noble leader all embody the closest thing one can have to a movement toward the divine in worldly affairs.

The worst things in life are are set in direct opposition to the good: the faithless, the disloyal, the corrupt.

But, of course, in reality there is always nuance. There is none who can claim to be purely good, none who can be condemned as wholly evil.

Even the worst butcher is driven by something extrinsic, while even the saints are held down by the intrinsic flaws of their nature.

This conflict between the external and the internal is why we fear both good and evil, and why we cannot come to a balance between both. It is not that one or the other is purely good or evil, but the balance between all things is constantly in flux.

The only permanence is the divine, and to our perceptions even that seems inconstant. Of course, this is due to our inability to develop a perfectly accurate picture of reality (which is not a good reason not to try) and appreciate the full consequences and merits of our actions.

So we blink, voluntarily closing our eyes to the things around us before they transfigure us. The words of Nietzsche ring true. One who gazes too long into the abyss is met with a return.


Do not expect perfection.

Contemplate the good constantly.

Accept the being of evil, then work against it.