30 October 2009

Obese mothers and the loss of a principle

A newborn girl was taken into care because of fears her weight would balloon in the care of her obese parents. The child was removed from her mother within hours of being born earlier this week and has been placed with a foster family. Her parents, who are both clinically obese, have already had two children taken into care amid concerns about the youngsters' weight.
They have been warned they risk losing their remaining four children if they too fail to shed pounds.

Before she became pregnant, the mother weighed 23st. At that time one of her children, a toddler, weighed 4st and her 13-year-old son weighed 16st. Social workers in Dundee confirmed they took the baby because of fears the infant's weight would balloon. Her devastated mother, who is 40, discharged herself from hospital on Tuesday, a day after the birth. She and her husband, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were warned last year to bring their children's weight down.

Last night a Dundee council spokesman said the decision to take the girl was given 'careful consideration'. She added: 'It is never taken lightly and always at the forefront is what is the best course of action for the welfare and safety of the child or children.' (Daily Mail, 22 October 2009)
Before the Welfare State came in, in 1945, there must have been many people who would have found the idea of a new-born baby being taken away from its mother, whether or not the mother was obese, horrifying in principle. Now this does not seem to be the case. People may argue over whether the reasons are good enough, but the basic idea that the state should be free to remove children in their 'best interests' (as assessed by agents of the collective) has apparently been generally accepted.

28 October 2009

Bertrand Russell on Nietzsche

He [Nietzsche] condemns Christian love because he thinks it is an outcome of fear: I am afraid my neighbour may injure me, and so I assure him that I love him. If I were stronger and bolder, I should openly display the contempt for him which of course I feel. It does not occur to Nietzsche as possible that a man could feel universal love, obviously because he himself feels almost universal hatred and fear, which he would fain disguise as lordly indifference. His ‘noble’ man – who is himself in day-dreams – is a being wholly devoid of sympathy, ruthless, cunning, cruel, concerned only with his own power. King Lear, on the verge of madness, says:

'I will do such things –
What they are yet I know not – but they shall be
The terror of the earth.'

This is Nietzsche’s philosophy in a nutshell.

It never occurred to Nietzsche that the lust for power, with which he endows his superman, is itself an outcome of fear. Those who do not fear their neighbours see no necessity to tyrannize over them. Men who have conquered fear have not the frantic quality of Nietzsche’s ‘artist-tyrant’ Neros, who try to enjoy music and massacre while their hearts are filled with dread of the inevitable palace revolution. I will not deny that, partly as a result of his teaching, the real world has become very like his nightmare, but that does not make it any the less horrible.
(Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy*)

Bertrand Russell
‘Those who do not fear their neighbours see no necessity to tyrannize over them.’ Bertrand Russell was brought up in a stately home with tutors paid for by his parents. He had very little reason to fear his neighbours, and any such ‘neighbours’ lived outside the boundaries of the desirable hotel environment in which he grew up. He was not exposed to the social hostility of even a fee-paying school environment.

Bertrand Russell is both unrealistic and unanalytical about the psychology of the ‘noble’ man as delineated by Nietzsche. Russell claims that Nietzsche endows his superman with a ‘lust for power’ which is ‘an outcome of fear’. He then gives a quotation from King Lear, which he uses to illustrate the motivations that he (not Nietzsche) ascribes to the ‘noble’ man. The quotation from King Lear, however, expresses Lear’s reaction to his helpless situation as a dethroned and infirm old man, cast out by his daughters, deprived of servants and exposed to the elements.

There is much more that could be said in criticism of this piece by Bertrand Russell. If the philosophy department of my unrecognised and suppressed independent university were not kept unjustifiably deprived of academic status and financial support, one of the things it would be able to do would be to publish analytical critiques of various writings by Bertrand Russell, among others.

* first published in 1946 by George Allen and Unwin, this edition published by Routledge, 2004 - from chapter on Nietzsche, p. 693

’We appeal for £1m as initial funding for a social science department in our unrecognised and unsupported independent university. This would enable it to publish analyses of the unexamined assumptions underlying utterances by philosophers, such as Russell's remarks discussed above.’
Charles McCreery, DPhil

’Any undergraduates or academics are invited to come to Cuddesdon in vacations as voluntary workers. They are expected to have enough money of their own to pay for accommodation near here, but would be able to use our canteen facilities. However, we cannot enter into correspondence about arrangements before they come. While here, they could gain information about topics and points of view suppressed in the modern world, as well as giving badly needed help to our organisation.’
Celia Green, DPhil

22 October 2009

The Alien Life

The concept of the “alien God” is an important element of Gnostic Christianity. The following extract from Hans Jonas provides an introduction to the idea.

The fact that this concept occurred in many of the various forms of Gnosticism which spread around the Mediterranean for several centuries after the supposed life of Christ suggests that it may have arisen from the views and outlook of an original philosopher/psychologist who lived at approximately that time. The concept of alienness could be seen as associated with a kind of open-ended scepticism or agnosticism towards the existential situation, antithetical to the dogmatic materialism and reductionism characteristic of present day ideology, as expressed by Richard Dawkins and others.

"In the name of the great first alien Life from the worlds of light, the sublime that stands above all works"

This is the standard opening of Mandaean compositions ... The concept of the alien Life is one of the great impressive word-symbols which we encounter in gnostic speech, and it is new in the history of human speech in general. It has equivalents throughout gnostic literature, for example Marcion's concept of the "alien God" or just the "Alien," "the Other," "the Unknown," "the Nameless," "the Hidden,"; or the "unknown Father" in many Christian-gnostic writings. Its philosophic counterpart is the "absolute transcendence" of Neoplatonic thought. ...

The alien is that which stems from elsewhere and does not belong here. To those who do belong here it is thus the strange, the unfamiliar and incomprehensible; but their world on its part is just as incomprehensible to the alien that comes to dwell here, and like a foreign land where it is far from home. Then it suffers the lot of the stranger who is lonely, unprotected, uncomprehended, and uncomprehending in a situation full of danger. Anguish and homesickness are a part of the stranger's lot. The stranger who does not know the ways of the foreign land wanders about lost; if he learns its ways too well, he forgets that he is a stranger and gets lost in a different sense by succumbing to the lure of the alien world and becoming estranged from his own origin. ...

In his alienation from himself the distress has gone, but this very fact is the culmination of the stranger's tragedy. The recollection of his own alienness, the recognition of his place of exile for what it is, is the first step back; the awakened homesickness is the beginning of the return.
(Hans Jonas. The Gnostic Religion. Beacon Press: Boston, 2001, pp. 49-50)
’We appeal for £1m as initial funding for a social science department in our unrecognised and unsupported independent university. This would enable it to publish analyses of the unexamined assumptions underlying current discussions in the philosophy of religion.’ Charles McCreery, DPhil

12 October 2009

Home Schooling

Baroness Delyth Morgan [a person called "Children’s Minister"] commissioned a report [at great expense to taxpayers] on home education, which alleges that parents could be using home education to mask sexual abuse and/or domestic servitude. (Daily Mail, 5 October 2009, Letters page, extract from letter written by Nikki Galbraith.)

But ‘teachers’ and education ‘authorities’ certainly are using the concept of ‘education’ to destroy the lives of both children and their parents, and no-one commissions me to write a report on that, although I have offered to do so.