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All ambitions are lawful except those which climb upward on the miseries or credulities of mankind. Options
Daemon
Posted: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 12:00:00 AM
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All ambitions are lawful except those which climb upward on the miseries or credulities of mankind.

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)
CheVegas ☁️ ✈ ☁️
Posted: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 2:01:53 AM

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I just spent 2 years traveling throughout the G.C.C. region and Asia. I'd like to have worn this quote on a t-shirt. (Though I'd probably be in jail now...or dead.)
mangezi
Posted: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 6:39:47 AM

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Daemon wrote:
All ambitions are lawful except those which climb upward on the miseries or credulities of mankind.

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)
Most African leaders wouldn't agree to this!

I am not a genius. I am just a tremendous bundle of experience - Richard Fuller.
jcbarros
Posted: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 8:07:18 AM

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All ambitions are lawful until they aren't.
Bully_rus
Posted: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 10:45:29 AM
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Problem is that ambitions often by far outstrip capabilities and therefore twist of law is their main or rather only chance. Moreover when a prospect reach a top-notched step of ladder then one in a position to make up laws or rules of play. Imagine what they think about lawful and unlawful practice.
Abdelkrim
Posted: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 12:23:38 PM

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Ambition is the word who made nations strong and powerful, and in some respects the one who brought poverty,war and destruction to many countries in this world.It depends how human being view things through this abstract word.States leaders are very ambitious by working hard for a general public by introducing a law that changes the lives of the people for a better future.This politician is ambious to get elected for the presidency of his nation in order to serve his people and make his country among the richest nations in the world.
However, when someone is ambitious to take a position and abuse his authority by embezzlement or overstaying that position more than the constitution allows it, such as dictators and tyrants and some individuals who hold power without the will of their peoples.Ambitiousness became a power hunger and a weapon for destabilization and catastrophe.
MTC
Posted: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 1:49:44 PM
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And besides — this, remember, is the place and the moment of perfectly open talk — I think that all ambitions are lawful except those which climb upward on the miseries or credulities of mankind. All intellectual and artistic ambitions are permissible, up to and even beyond the limit of prudent sanity. They can hurt no one. If they are mad, then so much the worse for the artist. Indeed, as virtue is said to be, such ambitions are their own reward. Is it such a very mad presumption to believe in the sovereign power of one’s art, to try for other means, for other ways of affirming this belief in the deeper appeal of one’s work? To try to go deeper is not to be insensible. A historian of hearts is not a historian of emotions, yet he penetrates further, restrained as he may be, since his aim is to reach the very fount of laughter and tears. The sight of human affairs deserves admiration and pity. They are worthy of respect, too. And he is not insensible who pays them the undemonstrative tribute of a sigh which is not a sob, and of a smile which is not a grin. Resignation, not mystic, not detached, but resignation open-eyed, conscious, and informed by love, is the only one of our feelings for which it is impossible to become a sham.

Introduction, A Personal Record

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/conrad/joseph/c75p/preface.html



Verbatim
Posted: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 4:07:11 PM
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Daemon wrote:
All ambitions are lawful except those which climb upward on the miseries or credulities of mankind.

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)


It would be hard to find out what was left of "lawful ambitions" after "those which climb upward on the miseries or credulities of mankind" were excluded as exceptions.

Conrad, however, was talking in terms of some memories, as well as, a hint of rebuttal to earlier criticism, with his immediate aim "to give the record of personal memories
by presenting faithfully the feelings and sensations connected with the writing of my first book and with my first contact with the sea.
"-- as he wrote in his closing paragraph to his preface for "A Personal Record" (1912).

On the trivial side of it, when searching the quoted sentence one may find several attributions of authorship, e.g. William Congreve(1670-1729),
Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), and Joseph Conrad (1857-1924).
MTC
Posted: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 9:36:29 PM
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Noted.

Many of the quotations from TFD that appear on our computer screens daily, taken in isolation, fall apart when scrutinized. Take today's quotation from Conrad, for example. The first part of the sentence sets up a general rule; the second part beginning with "except" sets out the exception to the rule. The first part is a categorical statement; i.e., "All ambitions, etc." If even one ambition (We assume human ambition.) which doesn't fit the category can be found, the statement is false. But, some authors are willing to take the risk because sweeping pronouncements make them sound like Moses, the lawgiver. Put that aside a moment. Now let's look at "lawful." Why not "legal?" Try substituting "legal" to see what difference it makes, if any. You can feel the difference even if you can't put your finger on it. Let's turn to a legal dictionary for help: "The term lawful more clearly suggests an ethical content than does the word legal. The latter merely denotes compliance with technical or formal rules, whereas the former usually signifies a moral substance or ethical permissibility." See http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/lawful. Ah, it appears (We can never know for certain as with most literary interpretation.) Conrad had in mind the Moral Law--not just law "on the books," so to speak. Without reading A Personal Record in its entirety along with a number of other works by Conrad we can not begin to understand what he meant by "lawful" in the sense of compliant with the Moral Law. That would be like trying to understand all of the Bible by reading the First Commandment. So we are stuck on this point unless we are willing to do a lot more reading, assuming we haven't already. We do know Conrad probably had a higher law, a Moral Law in mind when he composed the sentence. In light of what we have learned we might paraphrase the meaning of the first part of the sentence as "All human ambitions comply with and do not violate the Moral Law." So far so good. But like a lot of other rules or laws, the meat is in the exceptions, here set out in the rest of the Conrad's sentence. Let's look at it. In form it is a familiar metaphor which compares human ambition (an abstraction) to a ladder which we "climb" on our way to the top or goal. For example, an American proverb states "Ambition is putting a ladder against the sky." Conrad compares "the miseries or credulities of mankind" to rungs on the ladder of ambition. "Misery" is one rung. Using this comparison Conrad says we cannot "step on" or oppress others making them miserable as we "climb" to the top on our way to realizing our ambitions. Nor can we "step on" men by exploiting ther "credulities;" their disposition to believe too readily whatever we say; that is, we cannot lie or mislead men to achieve our ambitions. Together these two rungs are the exceptions to the rule that "All ambitions are lawful." These are the "unlawful" ambitions. All other ambitions are "lawful." With this added analysis we might paraphrase Conrad's entire sentence as "All human ambitions do not violate the Moral Law except those in whose achievement we make men miserable or mislead them."

Is Conrad's categorical statement correct? Can we find an exception? Well, first of all the statement measures what is right and wrong ("lawful" under the Moral Law) solely in terms of the impact on human beings. What about the impact on animals? On the environment? What if our ambitions negatively and arguably immorally impact them? Are such ambitious actions by men still "lawful?" Look around you at the polluted skies, the poisoned water, the endangered species, all victims of short-sighted human ambition. And what about the vaulting ambition of a ruler who climbs to power causing misery and achieving his ends through deception along the way, but in the end uses his power for the greater good? So the answer is "yes," there are exceptions to Conrad's statement or rule. Standing alone it is incorrect. But in fairness to Conrad, his focus was on the proper subject of intellectual and artistic ambitions (see excerpt.) He wanted to show his canvas as an arist and intellectual was very broad with few limits, moral or otherwise.

In conclusion, many of the quotations we are served up disintegrate on close inspection. If we really want to know what the author meant, we should read the entire work from which the quotation is extracted at a minimum. Otherwise the quotations are merely a springboard for discussion which is probably what TFD intended to begin with. But it's our resource and opportunity to make of what we will.

P.S. Merry Christmas.




Miriam...
Posted: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 10:16:06 PM

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"All ambitions are lawful except those which climb upward on the miseries or credulities of mankind."

I think this is a profound statement about moral behavior.

In reaching for the moon in one's personal life, by stepping on the back of one less fortunate then one's self for personal gain, whether it be by seeking out the miserable or the credulous,
capitalizing on a person's misfortune and taking advantage of the innocence or naive--and I suppose, using anyone for personal gain in order to attain one's own self interest-- is profoundly wrong. Although, some among us, I'm sure, see this as survival of the fittest.
Absurdicuss
Posted: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 10:22:17 PM

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Thank you MTC for your essay on Conrad's quote. It was grammatically well written and thoughtful; delving into and bringing out several important points to consider when reading quotes out of context.

Essentially what you're driving at is that in isolation the quote is neither exhaustive nor absolute in it's claim.

"Now" is the eternal present.
Verbatim
Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2013 12:25:50 AM
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[quote=Miriam...] quoted Daemon :"All ambitions are lawful except those which climb upward on the miseries or credulities of mankind."

Miriam wrote: "I think this is a profound statement about moral behavior.

In reaching for the moon in one's personal life, by stepping on the back of one less fortunate then one's self for personal gain, whether it be by seeking out the miserable or the credulous,
capitalizing on a person's misfortune and taking advantage of the innocence or naive--and I suppose, using anyone for personal gain in order to attain one's own self interest-- is profoundly wrong. Although, some among us, I'm sure, see this as survival of the fittest."

I think this is a profound statement about moral behavior.
Absolutely, Miriam, and "ambition" is not a dirty word except, sadly oftentimes, when exercised as you so aptly described, which Conrad so briefly encompassed.
His first novel "Almayer's Folly" (1895) and the next one, "An Outcast of the Islands" (1896), both cast "ambitions" in that light, discretely, without fanfare, albeit
with comprehensive characters examination.

It would be wrong to not aspire for improvement of our station in life. Education, hard work, even some risk taking may be among the means to acquire it, as long as it is earned. Exceeding our station in life by living or acting beyond its means, making unjust demands upon it (a curse of our affluent and crude society), is not an improvement but a setback: The excesses only highlight the contrast of the resultant inferiority.

Season's greetings, Miriam! In my tradition, possibly yours too, Merry Christmas!


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