Dear Descartes (h2so4 11)

Dear Mr. Descartes,

Crunchy wheat or frosted treat?

    -- Trix

Dear Trix:

Inasmuch as we neither seek nor shun any object except in so far as our understanding represents it as good or bad, all that is necessary to right action is right judgment, and to the best action the most correct judgment, that is, to the acquisition of all the virtues with all else that is truly valuable and within our reach; and the assurance of such an acquisition cannot fail to render us contented.


Dear Descartes,

I know I've asked this before, but please, is there really any reason for women to wear white pumps?


My Dear Avia:

Good fashion sense is, of all things, the most equally distributed; for everyone thinks herself so abundantly provided with it, that those even who are the most difficult to satisfy in everything else, do not usually desire a larger measure of this quality than they already possess. And in this it is not likely that all are mistaken, the conviction is rather to be held as testifying that the power of judging aright and of distinguishing truth from error, which is properly what is called good sense or reason, is by nature equal in all persons; and that the diversity of our fashion opinions, consequently, does not arise from some being endowed with a larger share of reason than others, but solely from this, that we conduct our thoughts along different ways, and do not fix our attention on the same objects of style. For to be possessed of a vigorous mind is not enough; the prime requisite is rightly to apply it to questions of fashion and adornment. The greatest minds, as they are capable of the highest excellences, are open likewise to the greatest aberrations of good taste in reasonable garment decisions; and those who travel very slowly may yet make far greater progress, provided they keep always to the straight road, than those who, while they run, forsake it and stumble into grave error in the wearing of white pumps.

    Yours Truly,

Dear Descartes,

So last Wednesday I had dinner with this friend of mine who I thought was a friend of mine, I mean, you know, just a friend-friend. But then after dinner we went to this bar to see this jazz band and so now everyone I know is saying, "Ooohh, he likes you, girl!" But it wasn't a date. I mean, no way was it a date. I least, I didn't think it was a date. But now I'm not so sure. I mean, we got really drunk and so all the details are kind of hazy. Actually, I'm not too certain about anything. I mean, maybe it wasn't even a jazz band? I guess it could have been "the blues." Who knows. What do you think?


Dear Doubtful:

I too am in doubt. I am in doubt as to the propriety of making my first meditations in the above-mentioned matter of discourse; for these are so metaphysical as not, perhaps, to be acceptable to every one. And yet, that it may be determined whether the foundations that I have laid are sufficiently secure, I find myself in a measure constrained to advert to them. I had long before remarked that, in relation to practice, it is sometimes necessary to adopt, as if above doubt, opinions which we discern to be highly uncertain, as has been already said; but as I then desired to give my attention solely to the search after truth, I thought that a procedure exactly the opposite was called for, and that I ought to reject as absolutely false all opinions in regard to which I could suppose the least ground for doubt, in order to ascertain whether after that there remained aught in my belief that was wholly indubitable.

Accordingly, seeing that our senses sometimes deceive us, I was willing to suppose that there existed nothing really such as they presented to us; and because some men err in reasoning, and fall into paralogisms, even on the simplest matters of geometry, I, convinced that I was as open to error as any other, rejected as false all the reasonings I had hitherto taken for demonstrations; and finally, when I considered that the very same thoughts (presentations) which we experience when awake may also be experienced when we are asleep, while there is at that time not one of them true, I supposed that all the objects (presentations) that had ever entered into my mind when awake, had in them no more truth than the illusions of my dreams. But immediately upon this I observed that, whilst I thus wished to think that all was false, it was absolutely necessary that I, who thus thought, should be; and as I observed that this truth-I think I am on a date, therefore I am on a date-was so certain and of such evidence that no ground of doubt, however extravagant, could be alleged by the sceptics capable of shaking it, I concluded that I might, without scruple, accept it as the first principle for which I was in search.

Having shown that this can by no means be educed from the power of matter, but that it must be expressly created, I here enter, in conclusion, upon the subject of dating because it is of the greatest moment: for after the error of those who deny the existence of God, an error which I think I have already sufficiently refuted, there is none that is more powerful in leading feeble minds astray from the straight path of virtue than the supposition that the approach to the dating of cads is of the same nature with our own; in place of which, when we know how far they differ we much better comprehend the reasons which establish that dating is of a nature wholly independent of the body, and that consequently it is not liable to end with the latter in an entanglement of limbs and, finally, because no other causes are observed capable of terminating it, we are naturally led thence to judge that it is interminable.

    Yours Truly,

Dear Descartes,

Stop the madness! Isn't there some way you philosophers can be persuaded to devote your energies to answering any question other than the infernal footwear query? To spend time on something other than the eternal dating dilemma? To apply yourselves to something practical, useful and above all relevant to our daily lives? I mean, does ontology recapitulate phylogeny? Does the holy, as the unapproachable, render every immediate intrusion of the mediate in vain? Or even simply: what kind are the causes and the principles, the knowledge of which is Wisdom?

    --Really, Really Meaning It This Time

Dear Meaning: One of my most important personal maxims is to endeavor always to change my desires rather than the order of the world, and, in general, accustom myself to the persuasion that, except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power; so that when we have done our best in things external to us, all wherein we fail of success is to be held, as regards us, absolutely impossible: and this single principle seems to me sufficient to prevent me from desiring for the future anything which I cannot obtain, and thus renders me contented; for since our will naturally seeks those objects alone which the understanding represents as in some way possible of attainment, it is plain, that if we consider all external goods as equally beyond our power, we shall no more regret the absence of such goods as seem due to our birth, when deprived of them without any fault of ours, than our not possessing the ability to alter the inquisitional direction of h2so4's editorial staff, and thus making, so to speak, a virtue of necessity, we shall no more desire insight from Hollywood entertainment, or intelligence in goverment employees, than we now desire bodies incorruptible as diamonds, or the wings of birds to fly with.

    Yours Truly,

Dear René:

Have you been keeping up with the town crier? What is this "Viagra"?


Dear Esteemed Colleague: It is true that the science of medicine, as it now exists, contains few things whose utility is very remarkable; but without any wish to depreciate it, I am confident that there is no one, even among those whose profession it is, who does not admit that all at present known of it is almost nothing in comparison of what remains to be discovered about Viagra.

As soon as I had acquired some general notions respecting the physics involved, and began to make trial of Viagra in various particular difficulties, had observed how far the medicine could carry one, and how much it differs from the principles that have been employed up to the present time, I believed that I should not keep this science concealed without sinning grievously against the law by which we are bound to promote, as far as in us lies, the general good of mankind. For by the science manifest in Viagra I perceived it to be possible to arrive at a knowledge highly useful in life; and in the speculative philosophy usually taught in the schools, to discover a practice, by means of which, knowing the force and action of fire, water, air the stars, the heavens, and all the other bodies that surround us, as distinctly as we know the various crafts of our artisans, we might also apply this science in the same way to all the uses to which they can be adapted, and thus render ourselves the lords and possessors of nature. And this is a result to be desired, not only in order to found the invention of an infinity of arts, by which we might be enabled to enjoy without any trouble the fruits of the earth, and all its comforts, but also and especially for the preservation of health, which is without doubt, of all the blessings of this life, the first and fundamental one; for the mind is so intimately dependent upon the condition and relation of the organs of the body, that if any means can ever be found to render men wiser and more ingenious than hitherto, I believe that it is in Viagra that they must be sought.

    Yours Truly,


The Pumps Paradox and the Datian Dilemma have been answered so often, with such varied meaning, that one begins to question the validity of philosophy altogether. With all deference to Kant, I need to know: can I trust your answers? Are you right or what? And can I quote you on this?


Dear Heidi:

As for the advantage that others would derive from the communication of my thoughts, it could not be very great; because I have not yet so far pursued them in such a way that much does not remain to be added before they can be applied to practice. And I think I may say without vanity, that if there is any one who can carry them out at length, it must be myself rather than another: not that there may not be in the world many minds incomparably superior to mine, but because one cannot so well seize a thing and make it one's own, when it has been learned from another, as when one has himself discovered it. And so true is this of the present subject that, though I have often explained some of my opinions to persons of much acuteness, who, whilst I was speaking, appeared to understand them very distinctly, yet, when they repeated them, I have observed that they almost always changed them to such an extent that I could no longer acknowledge them as my own. I am glad, by the way, to take this opportunity of requesting posterity never to believe on hearsay that anything has proceeded from me which has not been published by myself; and I am not at all astonished at the extravagances attributed to those ancient philosophers whose own writings we do not possess; whose thoughts, however, I do not on that account suppose to have been really absurd, seeing as they were among the ablest men of their times, but only that these have been falsely represented to us.

    Yours Truly,