Little miseries, and even big ones, are all part of what is needed to present wisdom with occasions for progression, by changing the mood. It’s also a good time to re-read Montaigne’s Essays. Not to say that pluripotent, well balanced minds are superior in all ways. We know the opposite to be true: all sorts of unbalanced brains can perform superbly, even irreplaceably, in the restricted dimensions they are obsessed by. (This is particularly true in mathematics, and with many a sublime artist: consider van Gogh.)
No obsession, no progression, where (what’s still mostly) illusion is (much of) the motivation. Obsessiveness is the point which pierces obscurantism. with dedicated will
Thus civilization depends upon mental specialization for progression in the establishment of mental connections ( a piece of really new art creates new mental connections). And so it is inside every mind. Thus, how do minds specialize? By changing moods. For example, by changing to an… obsessive mood (for the aforementioned reason). Authenticity is also a mood. It generates truth progress, true progress, the progress of truth.
The fuel of mental progress is authenticity. There have been significantly different versions of what it is to be truthful, or authentic, in the last 24 centuries. Here are a few (I found only a panel in French, but French seems to be misspelled English, or vice versa).
Being stuffed with antibiotics, hobbled by pneumonia, puts one in a meditative mood quite different from other meditative moods. To be stuck in bed, forces the brain into a completely different mode from, say, running down a mountain. The general wisdom emanating is drastically different. New perspectives, among other things, are generated.
To the left, tall trees are gently swinging in the breeze, on the right, above other tall trees, in the clear blue sky, extremely high white clouds are streaming across the sky, well above a hundred miles per hour, illustrating vividly the power of the Pacific polar jet stream. Such a spectacle of our atmosphere alive, is as astounding as as the Northern Lights: from massive storm to clear blue sky in about an hour, now with the occasional high white cloud streaking across. Our planet, our gigantic spaceship, is truly amazing.
I am occasionally accused to be an anti-American French philosopher. This is true, yet unfair: it gives only an incomplete picture of my fiendishness. I am also an American anti-French philosopher. As an African philosopher, I have also: Africans have seen a lot. Very recently.
Does the concept of “Mood” translate in (modern) French? (The question was asked to me by Dominique Deux, a faithful commenter on this site.) Africans can learn perfect French in Africa, and I can really tell you, “Mood” does not translate much into modern French… usage (I intent to correct that). It is all the more curious in that the French are… full of moods. It’s important to strike a mood in France. Especially for philosophers.
Montaigne’s essays start with Montaigne striking a mood: “This book was written in good faith (“bonne foi”), reader. It warns you from the outset that I have set no goal but a domestic and private one. I have set no goal of serving you or my own glory. My powers are inadequate for such a purpose. I have set it up for the convenience of my relatives and friends so that when they have lost (as they soon must), they have recovered here some features of my habits and temperament, and by this means keep some of the knowledge they had of me more complete and alive. ”
The fundamental mood Montaigne is brimming with? He says it himself: “BONNE FOI”. (It is exactly the opposite mood from that of the electable politician, ever since we caught that plague, “representative” democracy, which seems to have everything to do with lying… In contrast to what the system the Swiss selected, seven centuries ago, when they declared their independence from those well-known plutocrats, the Habsburg…)
Why is “Bonne Foi” so important in philosophy? For the exact same reason as it is fundamental in science: it embraces truth.
The point of view I will propose on this site for what “truth” and good faith” mean could be useful in pure logic, by switching from language to metalanguage. Too tech to explain right now, but I will later.
Montaigne starts his essays with a flurry of examples from… war. This is why Montaigne is deep, and Gandhi (say) shallow. Montaigne, a soldier (he viewed himself as a soldier), knew all too well that men show their true nature when existence, in particular their own existence, is at stake. One’s existence, plus those of others, giving and taking, everything: this potent cocktail is that of war.
(And if war is presently obsolete, or, let’s say more precisely, subdued, it is because bellicose forces, led by the USA, and France, keep it that way. War is keeping war in check. Each smart bomb exploding with high precision in Syria is a vaccination against a worse, much more violent disease… Not to say Russian bombs are precise: they often are not. But the West bombs precisely, after exquisite intelligence).
By considering examples from war, Montaigne is considering what focuses minds the best: the prospect of death, receiving it, or giving it. It is virtually certain that the most frequent cause of death of male human beings over the last few million years was combat, or some other violence, such as fighting a wild beast. Thus the human brain is best equipped to keep record of combat, and, indeed, we know better why and how the Aztecs or the Romans fought, rather than what they ate.
Hence military records present with a wealth of human experiences, a rich mine Montaigne prospects. Daring to be Politically Incorrect (PI), rather than Christian Correct, Montaigne naturally used this vast record of exploits, some admirable, some repulsive. And indeed, in his first essay, Montaigne roils out some famous examples of both. Montaigne points out, implicitly, that Alexander (so-called the Great) was repugnant: he gives two examples why (Thebes and Gaza; I know a third one: Tyr.).
Interestingly, Aristotle is the one who proposed the notion that omission was a lie. Montaigne was more cautious. However, after promising to depict himself all naked if need be, the first thing personal he admits to, is that he does not like to be seen peeing in public (which, he admits, considering his profession, soldier, was a bit of a problem…)
I will propose something even more demanding for what Good Faith consists of: a full exploration of what one should know about the subject at hand. And that includes the truth of moods. Kant, there, who apparently wanted to tell the entire truth (see the green panel above), would have come short: his real mood was racism. And he obviously did not want to flaunt that, but be discrete about it.
So when the Nazis got inspired by Kant, they got inspired by the same attitude: tell their truths, all their truths, but don’t reveal what their real moods were. Quite the opposite: Hitler went all around. claiming to be in the mood of defending “peace” and “minorities”, whereas he wanted to kill both. Same with Kant: he wanted to enslave other “races”, but, knowing how ugly that was, he kept his real mood.