Excruciatingly Large Things

Daniel Rourke's new website is:


For Sheer Delight of Reading

→ by Danieru
In the past year I have read a heap load of books (my job gives me a ridiculous amount of free-time) most of which were superb. And so in recognition of my affliction for thrusting information into other people's faces, here are some of my favourite quotes collected so far, organised for your relish. Enjoy:

"It would be a poor thing to be an atom in a universe without physicists, and physicists are made of atoms. A physicist is the atom's way of knowing about atoms..." - George Wald

"As soul is to man, man is to machine: It is the added dimension in terms of functional hierarchy. As one of us acts godlike (gives his cloak to a stranger), a machine acts human when it pauses in its programmed cycle to defer to it by reason of a decision." - Philip K Dick, The Shifting Realities of...

"We have caused so many extinctions that our dominion over the Earth will appear in the fossil record like the impact of an asteroid." - Ronald Wright, Short History of Progress

"We ourselves are technological devices, invented by ancient bacterial communities as means of genetic survival - we are part of an intricate network that comes from the original takeover of the Earth. Our power and intelligence do not belong specifically to us, but to all life..." - John Gray, Straw Dogs

"The masses are the increasingly dense sphere in which the whole social comes to be imploded, and to be devoured in an uninterrupted process of simulation" - Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation

"Night has fallen. He has died now.
A fly crawls over the still flesh.
Of what use is it to me that this man suffered,
If I am suffering now?" - Jorge Luis Borges

"Every human being was a melody demanding completion within the greater musical theme of society." - Olaf Stapledon, Last and First Men

"Among the imaginary constructions created by the intellect working in service of the will, perhaps the most delusive is the view it gives us of ourselves - as continuing, unified individuals." - Schopenhauer

"What you ask, was the beginning of it all? And it is this...
Existence multiplied itself for sheer delight of being and lunged into numberless trillions of forms so that it might find itself innumerably." - Sri Aurobindo
More to come soon as I plough through the notes I've made this year. What am I organising for? It's written down here somewhere...

Did any of these quotes get your cogs moving? Have you read any of these authors yourself? You know where the comments button is...

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Blogger Heathen Dan said...

Wow, except for Schopenhauer I have no idea who those authors are. This sounds like an interesting project. I could try doing this too, but I don't keep notes. =\

October 17, 2005 10:55 PM    

Blogger Heathen Dan said...

I just now clicked on your book-pile image, and I see more names that I recognize. I also have a copy of Boyer's Religion Explained. Dennett, Hofstadter, Chomsky and Pinker, I have some of their books or videos. Good stuff! And I've always wanted to read Oliver Sacks' book, keep hearing good things about it.

Maybe I should take a picture of some of my books too. I'd choose some of my favorites and share quotes from each. Sounds like a plan.

October 18, 2005 2:14 AM    

Blogger Danieru said...

Dennett, Hofstadter, Chomsky and Pinker have videos? Sounds intriguing...

Pinker must surely be the boy-wonder of the evolutionary psychology world, but who is the Batman?

I heard Pinker decided not to have kids because he saw it as the only sure-fire way humans can gain control over their destiny. I too would like to see my sperm put to better use elsewhere. Now where did I leave that sample cup...

Hope you liked the quotes. My note book is in dire need of a tidying and so, in reflection, is my brain.

October 18, 2005 2:45 AM    

Blogger Heathen Dan said...

Hehe, not all of them (well, not that I know of). Dennett seems to enjoy being interviewed, since he's featured in BBC Four's Atheism series, and he also served as a talking head in PBS' Evolution series. Chomsky, on the other hand, has several videos, but not on his academic work, rather on his political work. I have his videos Manufacturing Consent and Distorted Morality.

Evolutionary psychology... Hmm, I would say Leda Cosmides and John Tooby are the two main players in the field (they're a husband a wife team to boot). Edward O. Wilson was the granddaddy of the endeavor with his work on the precursor of EvoPsych, which is sociobiology. Dennett could be considered as a member, although he's more of Dawkins' lapdog than anything else.

Pinker is ok, but I am dissatisfied with his book The Blank Slate (though I have read excerpts available online or printed in magazines). His targets, the so-called tabula rasa proponents, are for the most part caricatures and is not really a position advanced by most of his critics.

As for Pinker's decision not to have kids, I am slowly being persuaded to do the same thing. Now if only I can convince my would-be spouse that breeding is not the main priority of marriage (she's a practicing catholic so she feels that sex and marriage MUST result in procreation, and the more kids the better).

Ahh, I do like the quotations, thanks.

October 18, 2005 9:35 AM    

Blogger Danieru said...

I have just finished reading 'The Blank Slate' and found it to be a wonderful, if sometimes generalised, account of human nature. I think he plays down environment/nurture far too much for my liking, but his arguments are valid and his evidence strong.

I am most definitely a determinist (a theory for which Pinker is more likely Dennet's lap-dog), and it is writers like Pinker and Dennet who manage to give the concept of determinism its strength for me. In doing so they only add to my concept of the universe as a beautiful chaos of evolving complexity. We humans have been determined and we will determine what passes on after us. Of this I have no doubt. (see Freedom Evolves by Dennet for more on determinism)

For a stroll on the anti-humanist side of the fence you must definitely read Straw Dogs by John Gray (also quoted in this post). My personal opinions rest somewhere in the middle of both Gray and Pinker. And its all about balance, right?

October 19, 2005 6:17 AM    

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