What non-Go book are you reading right now?

I am very glad you liked it and find so many historical parallels to it :slight_smile:
It really makes me sad how many wondrous texts have been produced in my language, but will never really be distrubuted or read by a lot of people for lack of translation, because a lot of people know the classics and thus their works survive and get translated. But more contemporary writters and philosophers are being overlooked because, let’s face it they are not famous enough to merit a translation and who would buy a book by an international unknown?

In that regard, if you all do not mind me presenting you with a small essay about a very important matter (the nature of truth, no less! :flushed:), by E.P. Papanoutsos. Arguably the best Greek essay writter and probably philosopher of the 1900-2000 era, who is totally unknown outside the country.
The essay which was actually an article written for a popular newspaper back then, was written around 1955 iirc and it is striking to me how much quality a newspaper of that era contained compared to now. The comparisons are sad, but I digress. This essay now is taught at schools and even though when I read it at school it was a bit tought to get, I already had come to similar conclusions myself, but I could not express them or present them in such a fantastically ordered way as Papanoutsos does. After I read that text I said to myself “this is how I want to learn how to write and think and argue” and, in a way, I managed to get my writtings to be like that.

Anyway, here it is (I made that translation for some friends in another forum at 2015, there might be some slight mistakes):

The Relative and the Absolute

_____ The scene comes from inside a bus, one morning hour, when the vehicle is going to its final destination with few remaining passengers. Near the collector sits a rotund, middle-aged woman, which from her furrowed brow is obvious that is anxious to talk and so a dialogue with the person sitting next to her was quick to begin. The woman narrates with fervor, and so that everyone in the bus could hear her voice and how the previous night a taxi driver “stole” from her.
_____While she was leaving the taxi, she gave him a 50 drachmas note to pay for the fare and he gave her back two 20 drachmas coins. She looked at them in the dim light and they looked alike. Perfectly the same, in weight and in touch. This morning though, she discovered that only one of them was genuine and she was enraged. She would go to the police etc etc. Her immediate bystander listens to the woman’s narrative with apathy, he seems preoccupied with his own troubles, and doesn’t give much attention to what she says.
— The damage is small, he said. At least the other coin was genuine. It could have been a counterfeit, as well. Of course the driver showed some kindness…
At that the woman gets more aggravated.
— You consider twenty drachmas an insignificant damage ? We live in the countryside and we live by a small grocery store. Our profits, each time is one or two dekares ( transl note : dekara = ten drachmas). We are not of course people in financial need, and we spend a significant amount of money to satisfy our whims, but to lose twenty drachmas in such a way is intolerable.
This argument seems to move one other passenger and the conversation is getting more general, inside the bus:
— What do you mean by: “The damage is small” ? Twenty drachmas are twenty drachmas, you do not find that kind of money in the street. Madam, you should go to the police and have the culprit arrested.
And here the collector intervenes:
— Why do want to be the doom of that fellow? Maybe it wasn’t his fault. Some other passenger might have given him that counterfeit and he took it without noticing it. With the same carelessness he passed it on to you. He doesn’t have a bank, you know, to cut and appraise coins …
A fourth passenger enters the conversation:
— I say that the driver later on discovered that the coin he was given was a fake. But what would you have him do ? Keep it and lose his whole day’s profit ? Who knows how many mouths were waiting at home …
But that bold defense enrages a far-off passenger:
— What kind of attitude is that ? He shouted. A fraud is a fraud and a theft is a theft. Outlaws should be punished or else society will slowly crumble.
At that moment the curiosity of a silent, till that moment, gentleman gave an unexpected twist to the incident:
— May I see this counterfeit coin ? Do you have it with you ?
The woman took it out of her wallet and gave it to him.
— It is a British Shilling, the collector said with effect. It is worth four drachmas. So, you damage is down to sixteen. So, forget and forgive and keep the coin as a souvenir.
— No, it is not British, said another passenger who at the mention of a foreign coin rushed from his seat to inspect it. It is a Frank of a South American state. I, since I collect foreign coins, (he said to the woman) offer to give you twenty drachmas and take the coin, if you would give it to me.
The woman accepted happily the twenty “genuine” drachmas and the collector pocketed the coin.
— It is old and quite rare, he said to me as we crossed at the exit, it is worth much more than twenty drachmas …

_____The readers of this column are not used in reading anecdotes in this place and might be mystified. My intention though, is not to entertain with a story, but to make them observe a phenomenon that has given the basis on many and deeply though psychological and sociological observations. The scene I narrated (I guarantee that it was a series of events that actually occurred) makes our problem definite and clear: How we judge, and the criterion we use, on evaluating the mood or an action of another person depends on the way (based on our character, our education and how we grew up, our professional needs our goals and so forth) we have positioned ourselves towards life and its merits. Eight people that “meet” in the same place, completely by chance, judge the same incident through eight different spectrums. The one with the “loss” suffers from the damage and the insult that she incured. The others see the incident from their own “position”. One is indifferent, one adds to the point, the third and the fourth offer excuses of the supposedly “guilty” driver, while the last three take different paths: The first one calls up for the upholding of the law, the second one tries to satisfy his curiosity while the last one (and most practical of them all) tries to satisfy his personal gain/interest. I think that all of us can narrate many similar happenings from his immediate environment or his surroundings.

_____In ethical judgments, not all people agree with each other, even those that live in the same era and are enclosed within the same social values. One tends to be stricter or more lenient in his convictions, others (honestly or hypocritically) refer to general rules and other try to adjust their opinions to the facts in hand, judging according to each case; one “puts” more or less of himself (his needs and his interests) in the matter at hand and so forth. All these things just for the way of judgment. About the meters (punishment), the climaxes of variations are equally enormous and colorful.

_____What can we surmise from this asymptote? – The matter is, of course, very complex and enormous in size so this is not the place to even present a synoptic account of every solution that has been proposed during time. So, we must confine ourselves inside some simple and general lines.

_____This problem (as well as many others) can be attempted to be solved with two ways of approaching it. The first one is easy: Either we simplistically declare that only one ethical measure exists (our own) and every deviation from it, instantly means deceit and perversion. Or, out of disappointment, we can fall on the other edge and admit that in our evaluations the existence of “correct/right” is a simple fantasy and that all evaluations are equally relative. The second method is harder exactly because it needs more thought and moderation, so it is followed only by the people that can perceive both the finite and the infinite. With the first value he is confined with relativity; with the other he longs to taste the definite/absolute. Bounds as it is in space and time, this historical and social animal (Note from the translator: He means us, humans. Socrates, iirc, was the first to use the term “social animal” to describe the human kind.) it was natural to be surrendered to relativity (of perception, of beliefs, of intentions). This, however, does not mean that the gates of the absolute are closed forever. In the case of humans, the relative is not the denial, but simply a part of the absolute, in the same way the ephemeral is not the denial, but a continual realization of the eternal.

_____If we look at the subject through this perspective, which means if we consider the absolute (meaning, meter, value) not as something that is beyond the synol of reality, but as synopsis, a conclusion and a finalization of the relative estimations that our spirit conducts – I admit that such a point of view is not easy at all, since the human mind is used in working in a “separating” way, instead of a “unifying” way – then we might give a solution to our problem that might appear to be somewhat of a paradox, but has, beyond the shadow of a doubt, depth and greatness. We will say, for instance, restraining our conversation to a definite example ( the previous one with the bus ) that all the judgments that were expressed contained truth, but did not contain all the truth. Each of them presents the opinion that is derived from a fact, from a set position. It is, therefore, relative, but not unfounded or unreasonable, since they all express a possible and logical judgement of the facts. According to this idea, judgements ( in some cases more and in others cases less successful) towards the absolute are our individual relative appraisals. Other judgements are closer to the absolute and others are less accurate; however, all of them have something of the stature/greatness of the absolute and that is why they are convincing. Those opinions fall down in the area of deceit or fraud if and only if each of those opinions claims for itself the whole area of our trust. The “part” has to be explicitly expressed and be accepted and recognized as a “part”; In that case it is true. When it is presented and acts as the “whole”, it becomes a lie.

—E.P. Papanoutsos - written around 1955 for the newspaper “Ta Nea” (“The News”). Published later in his book “Practical Philosophy”

And I have many more texts and examples like these. Especially that man wrote texts/essays of fantastic wisdom and in a way that most people could grasp and actually think how they could be applied in their everyday lives. Maybe that happened because Papanoutsos was an amazing educator before he was a writter or a philosopher. Personally I still can’t believe that things like these once found their way in newspapers.

Hope you all found it useful :slight_smile: