Category Archives: Sense and Sensibility

On Love

In our Thursday evening meditation group at The Bodhi Garden we looked at the chapter on Meditation on Love from Kathleen McDonald’s How to Meditate. Each chapter in this book has been a revelation to us: McDonald’s simple and clear prose has a depth that can be easily missed. Here is the first paragraph that we looked at in the Thursday group.

Love, also called “loving-kindness,” is wanting others to be happy. It is a natural quality of mind, but until we develop it through meditation and other practices it remains limited, reserved for a few select individuals—usually those we are attached to. Genuine love is universal in scope, extending to everyone, without exception.

Buddhists have for the most part have given up on the word ‘love’ and an inspection of the entry on love Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy shows us why. Even sticking to the philosophical definitions of love we can see extreme confusion, without going anywhere near the ideas of love held by the benighted and unphilosophical.

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Earthquake Follies

[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here Talking Philosophy) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]

After picking up Peter Singer on his inability to even attempt to address the ‘problem of evil’ seriously I see Julian Baggini has written a similar article on karma in the wake of Sharon Stone’s clumsy remarks. Just as Singer chose a hopelessly weak foil, one that is not known for any mastery of theology to make his point Baggini has chosen Glen Hoddle and Sharon Stone. As I suggested in the earlier article this I think fits a pattern of a particular kind of atheism, the faith system being based on the incompetence of the religious. This can’t be stated too clearly: the object of their faith, the thing to be protected, is the belief in the irrationality, stupidity, confusion, corruption, etc., of religious people. It is a profoundly negative belief system.

The earlier article, Why I am not an Atheist, avoided getting down into the issues themselves as I was convinced that this would trigger a tedious repetition of entrenched positions. Also not being a Christian I didn’t feel it was my place to wade in, but I have since promised to engage the issues and write a blog article, Theism for non-Theists. Here I do get involved with the Buddhist issues and you can consider it a bridge to the promised article, as the misunderstanding of karma and failure to grasp the Christian approach to the ‘problem of evil’ seem have similar underlying causes.

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Conservatives and Progressives

[This article is the second in a series on Elitism, Conservatives and Progressives.]

Andrew Sullivan has been chewing over what it means to be a conservative and I would like to clarify my own ideas here. I agree with Sullivan in seeing Edmund Burke as the founder of modern conservatism. (Of course, that I am a Bristolian and the Anglo-Irish Burke represented the city in parliament doesn’t bias me in the least.) Modern conservatism arose as a reaction to the French Revolution, which is not to say that it was a reactionary movement, there being much to be said for the point of view that the French Revolution was a glorious mistake (the same could been achieved much less violently) and that conservatism offers a valuable critique, with Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France setting the terms of the debate.

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The Janeites, the Brontës and Sense and Sensibility

“… You have all so much more heart among you than one finds in the world at large. …”

— Mary Crawford, Mansfield Park

On first encountering the Austen blogs (see my Literature Blogroll) I was surprised at the overwhelming space given over to discussion of film adaptations, but then I realised that PBS were just completing a season on Jane Austen. I have enjoyed adaptations of the novels and had a particularly indulgent phase on the ’95 Davies-Ehle-Firth adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I started exercising restraint when i noticed that I was starting to blur this adaptation and the novel itself–it was becoming the novel, I still think it biases my impression of the novel. I wonder if anyone else has had this problem.

Appearances can be deceptive.

Via the BrontëBlog I came across this notice:

Jane Austen and the Brontes: ‘Sense’ versus ‘Sensibility’

[…] with Angela Day

[…] Austen’s approach is through a rejection of excess of sentimentality – sense. The Bronte novels emphasise the power of the imagination – sensibility.

And in an exchange of comments Christina said:

What I’ve always concluded from S&S, too, is that by the end of the novel both sisters have learned that extremes are no good and to take a leaf of each other’s book.

Now I would argue against both of these interpretations, what I would call the standard interpretations, and do so at length in the early draft of In Search of Sense and Sensibility (and I anticipate making the same argument in all subsequent drafts unless you persuade me otherwise).

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Emma’s Debt to Sense and Sensibility

[the first half of this article on Sense and Sensibility is a highly compressed encapsulation of Exploring Sense and Sensibility, and the second is concluding section of some notes on Emma. The join is not intended to be seamless, but to help provide an entry point for the book.]

While Emma (1815) is seen as Austen’s masterpiece, Sense and Sensibility (1811) is said to show ‘evidence of artistic immaturity’ (Duckworth (1994), p. 82, n. 1), but I beg to differ; it seems to show almost miraculous artistic maturity, that we are to this day still coming to terms with. Just as Austen’s first great critic, Scott (1815) reviewed Emma for John Murray only to finish with a sally at Sense and Sensibility that makes little sense, so his antecedents have been following in his footsteps, rightly celebrating the vastly superior technique of Emma, while failing to properly comprehend the debt that Emma owes to Jane Austen’s first-published novel, and not merely getting Austen established as a published authoress.

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