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Machiavelli’s Means to and End

Today’s daily writing challenge concerns the end and the means and the possibility of justification for said means before, during or after the fact. The Stick of Justification swings both ways, depending upon who is in charge, and it can look pretty mean at times.

Whenever I hear this phrase, “the ends justify the means,” there always since very young has been the idea of Machiavelli along with that. And with Machiavelli comes the pallor of evil. Where did I get these impressions? They came from just about everybody’s reaction to his name. There was a certain grimace of discomfort, and I always had the distinct feeling, that though one might mention his name in hushed tones, saying it out loud, or asking as I was wont, what the big deal was (I was quite young, and no one would ever tell me), was Frowned Upon and a Bad Deal all round.

It was not until college, and my junior year, that I sat down and read the beast. All the years of mystery surrounding this man and his work “The Prince” came to an end. Actually it was quite a good read, and interesting. Now, I’m not saying these impressions that had been inlaid into my psyche were baseless. There are a number of, shall we say, dicey moral decisions he is advocating. But there are two points that stood out in stark contrast to all that I had heard about “The Prince.”

The first is its hypotheticality. The second is the specificity of the situation discussed and the generally overlooked good council as regards the subjects of a prince and his interactions with the military. Plus, Machiavelli’s recommendations are backed by illustrations from classical battles as well as internal fights of the organized gang leaders. Organized crime in 15th Century Europe! Great stuff and written, unlike much history, not to bore but to involve. More specific points are in order, but it is late. Till then.


Odds ‘N’ Ends

Short(er) post today. Did not care too much for today’s postaday prompt so, rebel that I am, I am going to write about stuff of interest from today. The presentation will be in the form of a list in honor of much of today being centered around lisp.

(defun describe (item)
 (cond ((eq item "humorous article")
         (web-open-stream this-post-gender-normative-guy-walks-into-a-bar))
        ((eq item "kierkegaard")
         (download-ebook Provocations))
        ((eq item "lisp gui tools")
        ((eq item "norvig")
         (grok peter-norvig-site))
        (t (format t "Whew!~%"))))

(This assumes some non-standard functions have been implemented)
Most of the day, aside from looking for work, was spent trying to find out how to use lisp to program a graphical user interface. At this point I only have a few leads. Many of the ‘projects’ out there haven’t seen the light of day for some years now. I am also not sure why I would want to do this. This morning there was a definite reason, but I’m having trouble recalling exactly what that reason was. It would be nice to know, if only to rationalize the time spent in searching.
On the other hand, I did find some funny articles, another book to put onto my wish list and a new (and poorly formatted) website to explore that has a lot to do with lisp. Also, if you google ‘The Lisp Curse’ you will find a well-written article that attempts to explain the current state of lisp development and the lisp community. Food for thought, certainly. And so I push on.


Today’s–well, technically yesterday’s–daily post was a very interesting topic, based around a quote by Kierkegaard. I got to thinking how little I knew of his work and philosophy. I decided to no longer put off wrestling with this man through his writings. Perhaps, like Isaac, I shall get my leg disjoint in the effort, but the time has come for me to work out with his Fear and Trembling. Perhaps Purity of Heart. It is shorter, and I wouldn’t mind that Either/Or I could start there. This indecision is really a kind of Sickness unto Death.

With such titles, why have I left his work, so long untouched! left mouldering on forgotten shelves, or more like to have left in buried boxes. No more!

But where I might best start may not be where any other may better, and having looked briefly at a few sites pretending to address this very idea, found one I think well worthy of inclusion here. There are a number of thoughtful reviews, that would be a help in making an informed decision. A number of suggestions are given, and many include the reasoning behind the choice. Read them all, though, because there are some opinions nearer the end that helped me to understand why so many people find his writings difficult or strange. The information about the different puppet voices he uses to be ‘the author’ of a work or line of reasoning gives me hope and excitement toward my somewhat hasty decision last morning to learn more of Kierkegaard through his writing.

If I could change how schools work…

O sing to me sweet Muse bedecked in green

And with thy shepherd’s crook do guide my thoughts

To ancient times, when Socrates did sway

Athenian minds away from Sophists’ tricks.

On marbled steps disciple’s keen attention

Turned on every word he spoke and still

More sharp detractor’s tongue was dulled in time

By ‘s wit with wisdom honed to perfect edge.

None! took he student but they who willing come

To dialogue and through hard questions grasp

That deeper methodology by which

Mere facts alone should never dare to raise

Themselves in thoughtful competition. True

Learning’s to show in thinking, how to think.


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