The path of Wisdom Print

ImageWisdom is difficult to find, in real life as well as in the Park. You have to search for it a little everywhere. But here are the leading names.


If we, to 99.99 percent are biologically identical, as is the case, to primitive pre-agricultural savages, the wisdom of our forefathers should be as valid today as when it was given. That is why it is equally true today as when it was written on a temple in Delphi that we should “know ourselves”. If you with Lucretius is satisfied with the truth that “little is never lacking” you will get time over to digest all the wisdom of Socrates and Plato.


The Park contains not only philosophers but also other “friends of wisdom”. Among those the three most famous Greek tragedians are to be found close to the entrance.


In today’s media world where almost everything is cosmetic publicity, isn’t it wise with Aeskylus to ask if you should strive to seem best or to be so? Or, with Sophocles, which is best, if I lose, using honest means, or if I win, using dishonest?


With Euripides you can look at the “population explosion”. If you tend to think we are getting to be too many on the globe, who do you want to save, who should go away? And how?


The wisdom of Roman statesmen is here represented by Cicero who, among much else, was wise enough to realize what we would call a “global” existence. He suggested that your fatherland is wherever you feel fine.


Much later, in 1744, a genial thinker in Naples, Giambattista Vico, with his theory of “corso and ricorso” modernised the old Veda wisdom of mankind as a blind led by a blind. 


A hundred years after that John Stuart Mill played with the idea that it might be better to be a dissatisfied philosopher than a satisfied pig or fool. Do you agree?


Long before Bentham Francis Hutcheson invented the idea that society should be so governed as to create the “greatest happiness for the greatest number”.


Just below the King’s benches Edmund Burk, only one year after the outbreak of the French Revolution, said that now even happiness will be measured by trivial book-keepers.


Happiness is important to study. Since the early 1970’s that is what has been done. The truth of the Stoics, that more money doesn’t make you more happy, has been proven. If that is so, if we don’t get more happy even when we get three times as rich, as is established for the United States, wouldn’t it be wise of us to question our political panacea, the hope that we will solve all our problems with ever more economic growth, ever higher levels of income and wealth ?


May there not be something seriously wrong with this thinking, especially if we also take the ecological consequences into consideration?


One answer you find at the highest point in the Park where you find St. Paul’s famous words about “faith, hope and love”. Why there? Because this religious and idealistic piece of advice may possibly be, I think, the height of wisdom! 


We now know that man’s emotions, biologically, are at least two hundred times older in us than his special intelligence. From which it follows that no rational science with however much economic growth will ever solve our deepest human problems. If we truly want to save mankind from committing suicide with all his new science-created mortal gadgets, wouldn’t it be wise, in spite of its idealism, with St. Paul still to have some faith and hope that before it is too late we will be able to develop an all-embracing love for all of mankind?


You may finish your visit to the Capri Philosophical Park equally confused as its founder was and still is. Let me remind you of the ruthless realism of Niccolò  Machiavelli as well as of the great idealist Pico della Mirandola and now combine them with Erasmus Rotterdamus. The three lived in the very same world, they were all born in the 1460’s.


Machiavelli entrusted his life to passionate violence, Pico to rational intelligence which he hoped would calm the passions. Erasmus knew better. His good friend, Sir Thomas More, the first serious Utopian was beheaded in 1535. He himself was bitterly attacked by one of the worst religious fanatics of his time, a German by name Martin Luther. Even if cruelty will remain, even if prayers will be vain, nevertheless, in a wonderful Moriae Encomium, a book in Prais of Folly Erasmus concluded that we should entrust our sanity to the ability to ridicule the powerful and to laugh at history’s ever-present abuses of power .


That, to me, is true wisdom!

 Gunnar Adler-Karlsson

 January 1st 2006.


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