A Canticle for Leibowitz: Reaction, part II

Well, here we are at last. The second part of https://vacuouswastrel.wordpress.com/2009/02/22/a-canticle-for-leibowitz-reaction-part-i/.

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while. I’ve been putting it off because the issues seem too active in my mind, and I’ve been waiting for them all to settle down into a writeable order. They haven’t; they’ve just faded in my perception of them. I considered leaving this altogether, but have decided to press on, not for the benefit of you, the readers, or even of me, the writer, but for my future self, when I get around to reading Leibowitz again – because I have no doubt that I will. I’m a young man; I suspect I’ll read it many times. And so perhaps, so as to avoid a restart every time, I should try to preserve some reactions from this first reading. Let my blog be my booklegger…


Yes, there are indeed many, many spoilers; beyond here, I assume that you’ve already read the book.

While I’m at it, I’ll also reiterate my own standpoint: religiously, I was brought up Catholic, but I don’t believe in God. Nonetheless, I have sympathy for Catholicism, and identify in some ways with it culturally (or at least with liberal bourgeois Irish Catholicism in England). Philosophically, I was for a long time a consequentialist of a broadly utilitarian bent; I hold this position to be valid, but I now also recognise a second viewpoint. That viewpoint is broadly influenced by Nietzsche and Epicurus, though also Schopenhauer. Both viewpoints are predominately though not entirely hedonist, and thus directly in the line of fire of most of the characters in this novel. I find its views attractive, not because they appeal to me, but because they so thoroughly repudiate me, yet in a way that seems almost within the grasp of what I can reach, as though it’s my own views turned backward, or my own views with something added or taken away (I suppose the faithful would say the difference was that I have no God). I find the whole impossible to accept – yet I am attracted by many of the parts.

I hope that’s cleared up any confusion about my perspective going into this.

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Sympathy/Empathy II.

Well, that was a long tomorrow, I’ll admit. I’ve been distracted with interesting conversations elsewhere – and the near-zero feedback, and indeed readership, here doesn’t really impell me to force myself to post.

Except for the thirteen of you who decided to come and have a look two days ago. I don’t know what happened two days ago to warrant such a spike, but it’s a shame there wasn’t anything for you.

It’s no longer all that interesting, but so as to not make a liar out of myself, here’s a vague idea of what I was going to say about sympathy and empathy.
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Sympathy/Empathy I: justification and some images

I thought I’ld actually share a thought here for once.

What is the difference between sympathy and empathy? What is compassion? I don’t pretend to attempt a rigorous analysis, but I was thinking the question over to myself last night, and thought I would share my conclusion, and some implications I considered.

The first answer has to be that there is no difference. We can use these words interchangeably. Often we do. Perhaps some people always do. The question should instead be, then, what difference will we decree that there is?
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