A few stray thoughts on depression

My life has been disrupted by what is politely called mental illness. No career. No deep relationships. Ugh. Perhaps from a higher point of view it all makes sense. But I am rarely able to reach that height.

Why me? Why *not* me? But really why *anyone*?

Was I lazy and irresponsible? Sometimes. But that cannot be the whole of it. They used to call it acedia, an affliction of monks; boredom, ennui, nothing seems to matter, nothing is of interest, the last and worst symptom – suicide.

Entropy, a symptom of isolation. An isolated system runs down, becomes increasingly disordered.


Death as Fulfillment

The oncologist who cures cancer will be the last of his kind. In making his cure he both kills and fulfills himself *as an oncologist*. Could the same thing be true when he dies as a man? Perhaps death is fulfillment. Perhaps we die only after we at long last do what we came here to do, whatever subtle or mysterious thing that may be.

Creative Justice (more or less final draft)

Creative Justice : What’s in a name?


Perhaps the phrase “Creative Justice” evokes ideas of inventiveness in punishment. That’s not the idea. I call theories of justice that feature punishment prominently “punitive” theories of justice. I find them destructive, not creative. Hence, the distinction between punitive and creative justice.


One model of creativity is *creatio ex nihilo* creation from nothing. Something comes into being which has no history. It is not merely a recombination of existing elements. It is new in form and substance.


Suppose there is a principle of justice in the world. It is a principle of balance, compensation, equilibrium. It works to eliminate unmerited states of affairs. A new thing, as described above, having no history, cannot have earned its place in the world. The principle of strict justice must therefore *eliminate it*.

Justice & Creativity

The principle of creativity, seeing its work under threat, acts. It *changes* its previous creation. Justice sees that, strictly speaking, the former thing no longer exists. Creativity has satisfied justice in the only way it can, through change. I call the working together of these two principles “Creative Justice.”

So, the name “Creative Justice” says both what it is not – punitive justice – and what it is – the working together of two cosmic principles.

Punishment versus Correction

What correction is.

From the point of view of creative justice, correction is the restoration of the victim to his condition before the crime.⁠ This cannot be a question of restoring the victim to a condition *identical* to that which he enjoyed before the crime. This is, as far as I know, impossible. Though reversibility is not ruled out by physics, I know of no way of rewinding things so that, for example, the bullet flies back into the gun. This can however serve as a regulative ideal, one worth striving for despite our awareness of its impossibility, like perfect efficiency in mechanics.

Creative Justice and the Criminal.

From the point of view of creative justice, correction of the criminal is also a restoration of his condition before the crime, before the disposition to commit it was formed in him. Again this is a regulative ideal. More practically, this means that creative justice demands of the criminal full repentance, so that he is no longer disposed to commit the same crime.

The notion of reversing a criminal disposition may, on the face of things, seem to require methods like those outlined in *A Clockwork Orange*. But,  it is impossible to tell if a criminal disposition has been fully reversed until the liberty of the penitent is restored.  The use of such methods would amount to a kind of permanent imprisonment, a permanent deprivation of the penitent’s liberty.

The best way to reverse such a disposition, while respecting the liberty of the penitent, is “right association”, association with those who do not have such a disposition. Though involuntary at first, this association must eventually come to an end as its goal, as mentioned above, is the free renunciation of the criminal disposition on the part of the penitent. The two goals of creative justice are;

1)- Correction

A)- Restoration of the victim to his condition before the crime.

B)- Restoration of the criminal to his condition before the crime, as described above.

2)- Prevention of a repetition of the crime.

Why punishment is not⁠ corrective.

Assume that to correct a wrong is to punish the wrongdoer. What about the case of excessive self-punishment? Excessive punishment is wrong.⁠ So, therefore, is excessive self-punishment. How is the excessive self-punisher to be punished? Whatever the method, this punishment would be in its turn excessive, and therefore not corrective.

A deeper question has to do with what is being corrected. Punishment does little for the victim, and little to prevent a repetition of the crime. What does it accomplish? This is where talk of “retribution” normally comes in.

Sadism and Revenge versus Retribution

Retribution is said to be better than revenge or sadism in two ways. First, retribution is intrinsically limited, as in “an eye for an eye.” Second, its principal concern is justice. According to the retributivist, sadism and revenge involve the taking of pleasure through the infliction of pain without limit and without the seeking of justice.

There is a situation which presents a problem for this defense. It often happens that pain is meted out in the name of justice mistakenly. This means that anyone who enjoyed such an infliction of pain was not taking pleasure at “justice being done” but was instead enjoying a purely sadistic or vengeful kind of joy. Surely it is not enough for the retributivist merely *to believe* that justice has been done.

Furthermore, it is not the case that the sadist or avenger is unconcerned with justice. Rather, he is too concerned with it. For it is the case that we can have done nothing to deserve to exist. Justice acting alone would therefore work to eliminate us. The sadist’s or avenger’s action is more in proportion to what strict justice, acting alone, would demand.

Paradoxes of Liberty

Are market freedom and human freedom the same thing? I say no. If markets were unrestrained, everything would be for sale including you and me. 

Does market freedom promote human freedom? It depends. Addiction, for example, is often good for business. But clearly, addiction undermines personal autonomy. A society where addiction flourishes is not a truly free one. Markets can create their own kind of dependency. This form of dependency is all the more dangerous for its power of invisibility.

Brief Dialog on Gays and Religious Liberty

A-I don’t quite understand how it’s an infringement of religious liberty. 

B- They think they’re being forced to do something they regard as sinful or criminal.

A- Are they being asked to participate in gay sex? No. That’s what puzzles me. They’re being asked to, say, take picutres of a gay wedding or bake a cake for one. There’s nothing criminal in taking pictures or in baking cakes.

B- I guess they would look at it like taking pictures of a murder or baking a cake that says “Congratulations” for the Brinks job guys. 

A- But being gay, or “homosexual behavior”, as they say, doesn’t really hurt anyone. Murder and theft do. I mean, suppose it’s true that those who engage in “homosexual behavior” go to Hell. Does anyone else have to go there with them? 

B- I guess that’s where the religion comes in. There’s no evidence that “homosexual behavior” causes physical harm. I know that might sound outrageous. 

A-What about AIDS?

B-The harm is caused by a virus. The behavior doesn’t create the virus. If the behavior caused the sickness – AIDS – there would be no immunity among the promiscuous. But there is. [E.g. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/may/27/aids.features%5D Anyway religionists should not rely on this type of argument. Their concern is afterall, for the soul, which is where Hell comes in.

A-I’m confused. 

B-Let’s take a break. 

C- Mr A, can we go back to where you said that they are being *asked* to take photos of a gay wedding or bake a gay wedding cake?

 A- Okay.

C-  The truth is, they’re not being *asked*. They’re being *forced* to do it. What happens if they refuse? 

A- I don’t know. I don’t think that’s been established yet, legally I mean. But I see your point. 

C- And Mr B, I think you lost the thread there.

B- Yeah. Mr A had asked me about Hell, if non-participants would have to go to Hell with people “guilty” of “homosexual behavior.” The issue he was focusing on was “Is anyone else harmed?” I don’t think anyone else is physically harmed by “homosexual behavior” in which they are not involved. Furthermore, I don’t think it’s the behavior that causes the sickness. There are plenty of people with AIDS who never engaged in gay sex, and plenty of people who engaged in all kinds of sex who are AIDS free. I can’t answer him about Hell. So I guess I’m agnostic on that part of it.

Evolution and Design

Look at an automobile and ask who designed it. Call him Mr Engineer. Now ask who designed Mr Engineer. Call *him* Mr Evolution, aka No-One. Why does the designer need a designer? He doesn’t. No infinite regress. No problem.

But why do we say that the automobile was designed? Isn’t Mr Engineer a symphony of necessity and chance – both blind? Isn’t “design” just an illusion? But then how do well tell the difference between the products of nature and the products of artifice? Is not the Artist – blind natural law – the same in both cases?


We do not perceive formal causality because we, or the vast majority of us, no longer have access to the necessary structure of consciousness. Have you ever stumbled out of bed at night, written down some insight from a dream, only to find in the morning mere gibberish? It was perfectly clear in the dream. But now you are “awake.” And it’s gone. You can suppose that it was only nonsense all along. But then your inner light will either grow dangerously bright, or fade out entirely. (This is after all how intelligent beings generally respond to being misunderstood.)


The idea that one may get along without the help of others is so obviously false that its affirmation amounts to a confession of some form of ignorance – at best. One cannot grow to adulthood without help from others. That should settle the matter. Apparently however, some adults believe themselves capable of getting along without the help of others. To this I would simply say “Show me.” Can the entrepreneur get along without customers, or the industrialist without workers? The simple truth is, they cannot. Yet somehow I don’t expect the simple truth to be taken seriously, which is a sign of something. They tend to regard their customers or workers as interchangeable parts. They tend to think that they are therefore more needed than in need. But this is not the normal state of affairs. Yes, the addict needs the dealer more than the dealer needs him. But non-addicts do not need the dealer at all. Likewise, those not addicted to convenience can do without the vast majority of what the industrialist and the entrepreneur have to offer. Now all of this is rather obvious. What blinds us to it is our addiction to convenience. (I say “our” to include myself as such an addict. My only advantage is to have recognized the problem.)