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Spinoza's Dream




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1. That Guy· Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844 - 1900). One of Nietzsche's more striking images was of the 'overman" who is a "value-creator' not subject to common moral codes established by others. It's easy to imagine 'that guy' in the song as a sort of Nietzschean overman.

2. Temptation ·Aristotle (384 - 322 B.C). Aristotle wrote on many philosophical topics, and in the Nicomachean Ethics he wrestles with the problem of 'Akrasia; or weakness of the will.

3. One Black Swan • Giordano Bruno (1548 - 1600).  Because of his heretical views on cosmology and other topics, Bruno was burned at the stake by the Inquisition. This song mentions Bruno, but it is really mostly about the frightening rise of dogmatism and pre-Enlightenment thinking in our times.

4. Never Enough· Soren Kierkegaard (1813 • 1855). The notion that we are always striving for  more, is captured in this quote from Kierkegaard, 'If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so  fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!' (From  “Either/Or:A Fragment of Life).

5. Spinoza's Dream· Benedict  (Baruch) Spinoza (1632 - 1677). Spinoza was born into the Jewish  community in Amsterdam, but cast out for his heretical views, which denied the literal truth of Biblical texts and argued for a pantheistic view of God.

6. No Matter How Close • Jean·Paul Sartre (1905 -1980). The song is really about 'solipsism' (the view that we are unable to really know anything outside of our own minds). In his book 'Being and Nothingness' Sartre claims that most of us are in a state of self-deception with regard to other people, treating them as "beings-in-themselves' rather than 'beings-for-themselves' (as objects rather than persons).

7. Bruise· Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804). Kant argued that we should treat others as “ends in  themselves, never simply as means to an end.” In war, this “Categorical Imperative” must be violated,  and as a result soldiers often suffer what is now being called "moral injury.” The song was inspired by a radio piece on the US military's dawning recognition  of the concept of “moral injury.”

8. The Painter· David Hume (1711 - 1776). The painter in the song sees himself as he was, but the question remains; in what sense is he the same person? According to Hume, there is no 'substance" (mind or soul) to a person, but just a series of impressions. But from the inside we don't think of ourselves as a series of impressions, so Hume's view requires a suspension of common sense.

9. Another Small Delay· Albert Camus (1913 - 1916). The characters in the song are separated by bureaucratic and governmental forces beyond their control, but still hope for a brighter future in much  the way that Camus argues for human rebellion in the face of humankind's predicament (that we are  mere mortals in a vast and meaningless universe).

10. Time of War· Thomas Hobbes (1588 - 1689).  Hobbes described a “state of nature" in which life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. I changed "state of nature" to 'time of war" and switched the word order slightly, but my modern tale of refugees from war is pretty close to his description.

11. All Good· Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646 - 1716). Liebniz believed that we live in "the best of all possible worlds' (a view satirically lampooned  by Voltaire in 'Candide"). Hearing people (including myself) using the modem phrase “It's all good..”, I thought of Leibniz, and how ideas wind up resurfacing in different versions over time.