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

Interpretation

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.

Resolution

Never assume that I am correct in my assumptions.

Make statements of truth carefully.

Don’t make doubt out to be a vice.

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