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Monday, May 1, 2023


As my Parkinson's progresses, I find it harder and harder to walk without stumbling and freezing.  But my mind, such as it is, is clear. I have enjoyed appearing via zoom here and abroad in classes and such, and I hope other opportunities present themselves. It is very odd to be so old and so comfortably fixed financially and so safe in my continuing care retirement community and simultaneously so appalled and frightened by what is happening in the world around me.


Marc Susselman said...

There is this mental game I play to try to keep things in perspective. I consider some of the tumultuous events which have occurred in my life and the changes which have occurred over my lifetime, e.g., the assassinations of John Kennedy (60 years ago, this year), his brother Robert and Martin Luther King (55 years ago); the resignation of Richard Nixon (49 years ago); the development of the World Wide Web (33 years ago, in CERN). Then I count back from the year I was born to the year which marks the same passage of time to my birth – in the case of John Kennedy’s assassination, 1893, when Grover Cleveland was President. So this is what young people born within the last 10 years think of when I tell them about my life experiences.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I graduated from college 70 years ago this June. Those who graduated from college 70 years before I did were probably born during the Civil War! They graduated the year Karl Marx died. It gives one pause.

Marc Susselman said...

I fluctuate between being an atheist and an agnostic. Many who read and contribute comments to this blog are affirmed atheists. Imagine our shock if Michael Llenos and St. Augustine are correct, and five minutes after our spirits have left our bodies, we wake up in Purgatory, or worse (or better?).

Marc Susselman said...

I am surprised that LFC has not pointed out my semantical faux pas in my comment above. Is there a difference between being a “confirmed atheist” and an “affirmed atheist”? In order to be an “affirmed atheist,” does one need a ruling by an appellate court?

Eric said...

The last person who had been receiving a pension from the US government as the child of a Civil War veteran died only 3 years ago.

s. wallerstein said...

Believing in God does not necessarily mean that you believe in an afterlife in which the good are reward and the evil punished.

My father, for example, described himself as an agnostic Deist, that is, he was agnostic about Deism, but an atheist about a God which rewards the good and punishes the evil.

To quote my father, "if it's too good to be true, it's not true" and God rewarding the good with eternal bliss and punishing the evil is simply too good to be true.

Michael said...

Similarly, being an atheist doesn't necessarily mean disbelieving in life after death. But from what I've seen (not really counting any cursory readings on Buddhism and such), the two usually go hand-in-hand.

Nietzsche's myth of eternal return might technically qualify as an atheistic life-after-death story. The usual take on that, IIRC, is that he didn't propose it as a literal metaphysical truth, but more of a metaphorical aid to the ultimate affirmation of one's life: In order for me to fully embrace (rather than regret) who I am and what I've done my life, I would have to be elated (rather than terrified) if a supernatural being informed me that my experience from birth to death would endlessly "replay" itself, as part of a fixed, fatalistic universal cycle.

I can't say I find eternal recurrence very appealing.

Marc Susselman said...

A legal hypothetical: Suppose the police accuse Mr. Smith of having been an accomplice to a bank robbery. Mr. Smith denies that he was an accomplice, despite evidence that he verbally encouraged the bank robber to rob the bank. But there is no evidence that he provided any material support to the bank robber to commit the robbery, therefore, Mr. Smith argues, he was not, technically, an accomplice to the bank robber. The bank robber is convicted and sent to prison for x number of years. After x years have transpired, and the felon is released from prison, Mr. Smith meets with the bank robber, embraces him, and signs the bank robber’s jacket. Is this circumstantial evidence of his having been an accomplice?

Over the week-end, Donald Trump was in New Hampshire. During his visit, he was photographed embracing a woman who had participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection and was convicted of a criminal misdemeanor. He then signed her backpack, and told the crowd that if he is elected, he will pardon all of the people who were convicted of participating in the insurrection. Circumstantial evidence of having been an accomplice, sufficient to warrant the Justice Dept. to indict him?

Marc Susselman said...


On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump took the following oath, as set forth in Article II, Sec.1 of the Constitution:

“I do solemnly affirm that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

By affirming that he would “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” he was affirming that he protect and defend the provision in Article II, Sec. 2 of the Constitution that, as President, he would “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed … .”

His defense to claims that he was an accomplice to the Jan. 6 insurrection is that by encouraging the protesters to go down to the Capitol, he did not encourage or endorse the assault on the Capitol which transpired. Many of the individuals who were criminally charged in that insurrection have testified that they interpreted Mr. Trump’s speech to tell them to do just that. Query: Is that sufficient to charge Mr. Trump with inciting an insurrection and committing treason?

Well, in fact, there is precedent for such a charge. On June 16, 1918, Eugene Debs gave a speech in Canton, Ohio, in which it is alleged that he, “caused and incited and attempted to cause and incited insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny and refusal of duty in the military and naval forces of the United States and with intent so to do delivered, to an assembly of people, a public speech … .” Debs v. United States, 249 U.S. 211 (1919), at 212. For delivering that speech, Debs was charged and convicted of violating the Espionage Act. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and was stripped of his right to vote. Affirming that decision, in a unanimous decision, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, id. at 216: “Without going into further particulars we are of opinion that the verdict on the fourth count, for obstructing and attempting to obstruct the recruiting service of the United States, must be sustained.”

Which is worse: Verbally encouraging an insurrection, or verbally attempting to obstruct the recruiting service of the United States?

Howard said...


There is a difference between Debs and Trump; Debs championed a cause, while Trump has no positive social value, not even entertainment. Your attempts to nab Trump by argument though interesting seem counterproductive.
If only because he knows how to get away with things and is extremely shrewd and has as they say a fanbase.
In my opinion, whatever he did deserves the death penalty.
There is nothing innocent about the man.
He is wreaking immeasurable damage.
My question is once he is gone how do we reverse the damage?
It is hard, Marc, it is good you never give up the good fight

aaall said...

We don't yet know all that Trump said to/around Pence and Mulvaney but Jack Smith has that testimony. Then there were calls during the event.

We do know what he said in the Georgia call but not what Mulvaney, Graham, etc. told the grand jury.

Michael Llenos said...


Believing in an generalized afterlife to me is really just a matter of if you believe in ghosts or not.

Here is my logic:

Because I believe in ghosts, I believe in demons, because I believe in demons, I believe in angels, & because I believe in angels, I believe in God.

Of course, even if one sign follows the other somewhat logically, they are not 100% proof tekmerion signs that lead from one stage to the other.

Even if you did believe in this, the next question would be who exactly is God?

Of course, if God is hidden from our eyes in this world, then it would seem logical that it is an irrelevant question.

If judged, you will not be judged, when you pass over, on any doctrine or dogma concerning God you had, but on the way you tried to show mercy to one or more people who suffered in the Cosmos.

Life seems like a test at times. And if life is a test, there is a final exam!

Of course, some may say that as a clever move they could always tell some angel, at the Judgment, that they never read any religious texts, in the 20th or 21st century, because they were not available to a philosophical reader. But some angel could always say in response:

"Did you ever read Arthur Schopenhauer?"

--Why, yes.

"Then why didn't you give charity to some impoverished person? Even Schopenhauer, someone who clearly was offended at the idea of a Judeo-Christian God, still taught that one should give to the poor charity, which he taught was their due in life. And if you couldn't honor someone suffering who you could see, how could you ever say you might have honored someone like God who you couldn't see? Especially since it is much easier to do the former than the latter?"

[Of course, that type of language may silence that man. And even if it couldn't, I doubt any kind of Judgment after death would be a debate. You were born into life from parents & a genetic code you didn't choose. You interacted with many people you had no control over. Events happened as they did happen, and not as you wanted. Why would the afterlife be any different? For myself, personally, I believe Matthew 25:31-46 sums up all of my above beliefs quite perfectly. If God is perfectly just or not, I don't care. Like a true follower of Epicurus, I want to avoid pain at all cost. Whether in this life, or the next.]

Anonymous said...

My ears perked up when I heard an elderly woman say that the sort of exercise featured in this small documentary, “Swimming Through,”—accessible at

—helped her deal with her Parkinson’s. They perked up even more when I encountered a 96 year old man, still exercising and, what’s more, talking most coherently, and another woman casually referring to a friend of many years who is now 106. Their camaraderie, especially when they manage to gather again after the pandemic became less concerning, was most touching.

But maybe one has to be of a certain age to enjoy it?

LFC said...

Re Holmes and Debs: Holmes's politics were mostly (not entirely) bad, and those political views did influence his judging. (Debs's politics were, by contrast, good.)

But more to the point, not having read the Debs speech or the SCOTUS opinion, I won't comment on them directly. However, mentioning Debs and Trump in the same sentence borders on the obscene, imo. One of the greatest figures in U.S. political history vs. one of the worst.

Michael said...

ML's comment reminded me of a couple interesting cases re. philosophers on the afterlife:

(1) C.D. Broad, if I'm not mistaken, wanted to disbelieve in life after death, but felt obliged to believe in it as a consequence of his studies in parapsychology. As a result, he became depressed. (I can't retrace my steps and figure out where I originally read this. Hopefully I'm not recalling the wrong philosopher here!)

(2) Wittgenstein, as described by Norman Malcolm:

"To quote from my Memoir: 'Wittgenstein did once say that he thought he could understand the conception of God, in so far as it is involved in one's awareness of one's own sin and guilt. He added that he could not understand the conception of a Creator. I think the ideas of Divine judgment, forgiveness, and redemption had some intelligibility for him, as being related in his mind to feelings of disgust with himself, an intense desire for purity, and a sense of the helplessness of human beings to make themselves better.

"'Wittgenstein once suggested that a way in which the notion of immortality can acquire a meaning is through one's feeling that one has duties from which one cannot be released, even by death. Wittgenstein himself possessed a stern sense of duty.

"'I believe that Wittgenstein was prepared by his own character and experience to comprehend the idea of a judging and redeeming God. But any cosmological conception of a Deity, derived from the notions of cause or of infinity, would be repugnant to him.'

"The influence of the notion of a Last Judgment is reflected in some of his remarks. The first occurs in a letter to me in 1940: 'May I not prove too much of a skunk when I shall be tried.' The second was in a conversation between Drury and Wittgenstein in 1949. Drury had mentioned a doctrine of Origen, according to which 'at the end of time there would be a final restitution of all things. That even Satan and the fallen angels would be restored to their former glory.' Drury then added that this conception 'was at once condemned as heretical.' Wittgenstein replied: 'Of course it was rejected. It would make nonsense of everything else. If what we do now is to make no difference in the end, then all the seriousness of life is done away with.'" - Source: A Religious Point of View?, ch. 1.

Marc Susselman said...


I was making a legal point, a valid one for that matter, that if Eugene Debs could be deemed guilty, by virtue of a speech he gave, of having violated a federal statute by attempting to influence certain conduct regarded as deleterious to the U.S., then, a fortiori, Trump, whose speech was far worse and far more destructive, can and should be likewise subject to the strictures of criminal law, regardless is purported defense that the did not actually order the protesters to storm the Capitol. Since making this argument necessarily entails putting the names of Debs and Trump in the same passage, I do not think that doing so in order to makd this point is, as you put it, “obscene.”

Marc Susselman said...

"regardless his purported defense that he did not actually ... "

Michael Llenos said...


Even if Origen's belief is true, good actions of mercy, on Earth to avoid a Hell, later on, after death, are still warranted. Personally I have no aspiration to go to prison for 1 minute, let alone a full 24 hour day. Therefore I try my best not to break any major law. Neither do I want to get in trouble with any minor law. And if people say they've been to prison for two weeks & it wasn't all that bad then that's fine.

But Hell, whether your talking Buddhist, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Muslim, Christian, or Dante's Renaissance Hell, I want to avoid if it is all that possible. Hell is a place that is many times worse than prison. Or so I can imagine from all the texts I've scanned.

Plus, a Day of Judgment is not just about punishment but also about rewards as well. Some will get the stick & some will get the carrot. The question of many nuns & monks through history has always been: how do I get the biggest of carrots if they exist?

But personally I believe Origins belief is farfetched. Why would anyone sentenced to 100 years of Hell want to be friends with the people of God who had no experience of such Hell? I mean if they are released into the New Universe they would probably be bent on making God's people pay in some way out of feelings of revenge. Even if they cannot be killed or kill anymore a terrorist act may still be tried. So what do you do with such evil people? Destroy them for all eternity. The universe was a lot better before they were created & it will be a heck of a lot better after they're gone.