"Christ lives, he has overcome death, he has overcome all these powers. We live in this certainty, in this freedom, and in this joy." (Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 12 XI 2008)
"Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks the truth! One without the other becomes a destructive lie." (Blessed John Paul II, Canonisation of Edith Stein, 11 X 1998)

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Philosophy of the devil (Noses and diagnosis)

As the more observant of you may notice (from my reading list in the right hand margin) I am still reading The Karamazov Brothers. I know it is taking a very long time, but in my defense it is rather long (second only to War and Peace I believe). I have been totally enthralled in recent chapters. Not to give away too much of the story, but there is a delightful conversation between one of the brothers and the devil. The intellectual posturing is at times hilarious and at other times just fascinating. I would like to share with you what the devil thinks of philosophy (I know it is lengthy, but I promise it is worthwhile):
'Philosophy, indeed, when all my right side is numb and I am moaning and groaning. I've tried all the medical faculty: they can diagnose beautifully, they have the whole of your disease at their fingertips, but they've no idea how to cure you. There was an enthusiastic little student here, "You may die," said he, "but you'll know perfectly what you are dying of!" And then what a way they have of sending people to specialists! "We only diagnose," they say, "but go to such-and-such  a specialist, he'll cure you." The old doctor who used to cure all sorts of disease has completely disappeared, I assure you, now there are only specialists and they all advertise in the newspapers. If anything is wrong with your nose, they send you to Paris: there, they say, is a European specialist who cures noses. If you go to Paris, he'll look at your nose; I can only cure your right nostril, he'll tell you, for I don't cure the left nostril, that's not my specialty, but go to Vienna, there there's a specialist who will cure your left nostril. What are you to do? I fell back on popular remedies, a German doctor advised me to rub myself with honey and salt in the bath-house. Solely to get an extra bath I went, smeared myself all over and it did me no good at all. In despair I wrote to Count Mattei in Milan. He sent me a book and some drops, bless him, and, only fancy, Hoff's malt extract cured me! I bought it by accident, drank a bottle and a half of it, and I was ready to dance, it took it away completely. I made up my mind to write to the papers to thank him, I was prompted by a feeling of gratitude, and only fancy, it led to no end of bother: not a single paper would take my letter. "It would be very reactionary," they said, "no one will believe it. Le diable n'existe point (The devil does not exist). You'd better remain anonymous," they advised me. What use is a letter of thanks if it's anonymous? I laughed with the men at the newspaper office; "It is reactionary to believe in God in our days," I said, "but I'm the devil, so I may be believed in." "We quite understand that," they said. "Who doesn't believe in the devil? Yet it won't do, it might injure our reputation. As a joke, if you like." But I thought as a joke it wouldn't be very witty. So it wasn't printed. And do you know, I have felt sore about it to this day. My best feelings, gratitude, for instance, are literally denied me simply from my social position.'

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