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 January 22, 1999 Volume 6, Number 9

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Aphorisms to live and die by

Professor Rudy Krutzen, of the Philosophy Department, is writing a book on what he terms "a caring theory of justice." Following are a random selection of provocative aphorisms selected by the editor from his draft table of contents.

Rudy Krutzen

- At its best philosophy is the search for wisdom; at its worst it's a self-destructive exercise in self-deception; it thus mirrors both the strengths and weaknesses of human nature.

- Chances are if a moral philosopher is a moral expert it's because he refuses to practice what he professes.

- The trouble with most academic experts is that they know too much about too little and too little about anything else.

- Our lives are the chance end product of blind evolutionary processes in an unconscious universe that is indifferent to our existence and inevitable demise.

- Birth is the beginning of the end, death is the end of the beginning, and life is the self-conscious biological struggle to actualize our rational and emotional potentialities in the finite period in between.

- Stripped of its quality, life is nothing more than an impersonal, repetitive, biological process.

- The value of a person's life is a secular decision, not a divine decree.

- No person has the right to be conceived, or, if conceived, to be born, and, if born, to continue to live for no other reason than that they were born.

- The permanent life insurance pedalled by moral fundamentalists devalues the very life it pretends to insure.

- It's not life-as-such that bestows moral worth on persons; rather, it's their moral worth that bestows on their life the only moral value it can possibly have.

- Dead is dead. The only problem is that the dead do not know it and the living do not believe it. If they did, it would be the death knell of religion.

- Although death is the great equalizer, it neither changes nor makes up for the inequalities that precede it.

- For the young, immortality is a dream; for the old, a nightmare.

- Without the right to die, the right to life is merciless.

- To those who wonder where God is when He is needed, the answer is: He is where He has always been - nowhere!

- What's wrong with the Judeo-Christian Weltanschauung is that without it reason fails to be intelligible and with reason it is doomed to be unintelligible.

- If the world's religions prove anything, they prove that their Gods have an uncanny knack for telling people what they want to hear.

- Ignorance is ignorance even for those who are too ignorant to recognize their own ignorance.

- While morality is unnecessary in heaven and pointless in hell, it's indispensable in life.

- The import of the absence of God and the moral blindness of Nature is that the existence of morality is contingent upon the existence of moral beings.

- Morality is a human trait born of biological and social necessity.

- The moral fundamentalist mistakes principled behavior for compassion, logical consistency for insight, and unyielding commitment for truth.

- Absolute, all-encompassing, moral principles are the sanctuary of small minds.

- Enforcing a rule requires power; applying a rule, compassion.

- It is not because justice matters that we care, rather, it is because we care that justice matters.

- Hard cases, they say, make bad laws; what's left unsaid is that bad laws make hard cases harder than they need be.

- The artistry of the emotions scuplts both the agony and the ecstasy of life.

- The vaunted blindness of justice breeds injustice.

- Emotions enlighten the dictatorship of thought.

- Reason is limited; it cannot make the morally blind see nor the morally deaf hear.

- The wish for immunity from the demands of our emotions is a moral death wish.

- Inappropriate emotions are the emotional counterpart to errors in reasoning.

- The overemphasis of gender differences and separation is another form of biological apartheid.

- The inequity of equality handicaps us all.

- Equal treatment of unequals perpetuates inequality.

- Persons are entitled to equal respect, not equal treatment.

- Fanatics are not living refutations of the truth of some contested claim but living proof that some individuals are fanatics.

- Putting one's trust in the 'invisible hand' of the market is like trusting in an invisible God whose mercy and justice is invisible to the living and irrelevant to the dead.

- Tolerance is not an unconditional virtue.

- The history of progress is the history of disputes won and lost.

- Moral progress is the result of trial and error.

- In moral philosophy, as elsewhere, arguments with impeccable logical credentials are often illogical.

- Experience is a teacher no theoretician can refute.

- Fallibility raises the spectre of scepticism; knowledge gives it birth.

- That there is no point of view that is not itself a point of view does not mean no point of view is better than any other, or, what is equally asinine, that we cannot know, without prejudice, which is which.

- Scepticism feeds on knowledge, not on ignorance - which is why unbridled scepticism is a terminal disease of thought.

- lf values were not facts, facts would be of no value.

- No price is too high to pay for those who do not have to pay it.

- Nothing is impossible for those who do not have to do it.

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