Saturday, March 05, 2011

Sceptic, Saint, Revolutionary

Reason and love may be fancifully described as the two wings of the human spirit. Flight is not possible with one wing alone. With love and no reason the saint becomes amiably ineffective and superstitious. With reason and no love the sceptic becomes a clever cynic. The perfect man would be a sceptical saint. And in our day he would be also a revolutionary.

Olaf Stapledon, Saints and Revolutionaries, Chapter 3. Brought to mind by John Wright's discussion of Darkness and Light, which is essentially the science fiction version of the nonfiction Saints and Revolutionaries. Stapledon, of course, had a doctorate in philosophy, and was a philosophy lecturer for a time; his philosophical works, like his science fiction, consist of striking passages and arguments knit together with stretches of the odd and even bizarre. Perhaps at some point I'll go through and discuss some of his philosophical works here.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:13 PM

    I had no idea Olaf Stapledon had a doctorate in philosophy! I must confess, though, that the only reason I know who he is at all is because one of his books was featured (heavily excerpted) in the video game Deus Ex. (It's an excellent game with many allusions to philosophy, sci-fi, mythology, and so on -- plus, it's a fun game to play too!) Unfortunately, I do not remember the book... it may have been Last and First Men.

    All this is to say, I'd love to know of some recommendations of where to start with his fiction, or of any other sci-fi writers who are explicitly philosophical (bonus points if they've got some kind of philosophy degree too).

    That is an excellent quote, however, and I will of course have to check out his philosophical writings too!

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