the man is not above consulting an astrologer or “oracle”

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NewAmerica

Banned
Mandarin
Does "the man is not above consulting an astrologer or “oracle” " mean "the man's wisdom is as the same as those who consult an astrologer or "oracle""?

Thanks in advance

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In his capacity as the head of one of the four branches of Tibetan Buddhism and as the former leader of the Tibetan government in exile, the Dalai Lama has made some questionable claims and formed some embarrassing alliances. Although his engagement with science is far-reaching and surely sincere, the man is not above consulting an astrologer or “oracle” when making important decisions. I will have something to say in this book about many of the things that might have justified Hitch’s opprobrium, but the general thrust of his commentary here was all wrong.

-Waking Up by Sam Harris (Page 30)
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    If I am "above consulting an astrologer or “oracle”, then I think that "consulting an astrologer or “oracle”" is beneath my status, my intelligence, or my dignity."

    If I am "not above consulting an astrologer or “oracle”, then I probably think that "an astrologer or “oracle”" is a source of some type of "real" wisdom or guidance. (Sam Harris, of course, thinks astrology and oracles are ridiculous superstition.)

    above - WordReference.com Dictionary of English
    not above reminding
    is not above
     
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    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    If I am "above consulting an astrologer or “oracle”, then I think that "consulting an astrologer or “oracle”" is beneath my status, my intelligence, or my dignity."
    And if I am "not above consulting an astrologer" then I do not think consulting an astrologer is beneath my status, intelligence, or dignity - instead I think that consulting an astrologer is commensurate with my status, intelligence or dignity.*

    It doesn't actually literally mean anything about whether I think doing so is wise. In this context, I'd agree that that would be a legitimate interpretation, but not solely from the highlighted portion of the quoted text.

    *and yes, I purposely used the oxford comma there one time and didn't the next. I am not above such an inconsistent comma usage if it seems to me that it aids the flow of ideas in a sentence.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Does "the man is not above consulting an astrologer or “oracle” " mean "the man's wisdom is as the same as those who consult an astrologer or "oracle""?
    No. The phrase does not compare the man with any other people, in any way. It just says he is willing to consult these, and does not think it is "beneath him" to do that.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I think he definitely loses face with Sam Harris. This is Sam Harris criticizing the Dalai Lama for doing something Sam Harris would consider an embarrassment if he did it himself. He probably thinks everyone in the world should be "above that", including someone as important as the Dalai Lama is in setting an example for others.
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    So in this case, kentix, might "the man is not above consulting an astrologer or 'oracle' " mean "the man is lowered in my estimation by his willingness to consult astrologers etc" and not the usual meaning of "he does not consider consulting astrologers etc to be beneath him" - or maybe it's in addition to that usual meaning?

    In other words, in context, it means the writer thinks the Dalai Lama is intelligent, but not so intelligent as to realize astrology is BS. He's sufficiently intelligent that he engages sincerely with science, not sufficiently intelligent that he eschews woo-woo. (In this sentence, "intelligent" is used in a way that it connotes the high-status and dignified aspects of being "above" something that were mentioned earlier, it was easier to just write "intelligent" than to write "intelligent/high-status/dignified" every time even, if it was less precise...)

    I actually think that is accurate - that's what the phrase means in this specific context. Earlier answers may have over-generalized. The writer is being disingenuous, though - there are obvious reasons for the Dalai Lama to engage with woo-woo that aren't anything to do with intelligence, status, or dignity.

    (in case you aren't familiar with "woo-woo" see woo-woo practitioner? and sounds woo-woo )
     
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    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Reading between the lines and based on many other posts quoting Sam Harris, I think the following is what he is saying/implying:

    Although his engagement with science is far-reaching and surely sincere, the man is not above (but should be above) consulting an astrologer or “oracle” when making important decisions.

    I think Sam Harris wishes the Dalai Lama thought it was beneath him to do that.

    That may or may not be his actual view on the matter, of course, but is my sense.

    his engagement with science is...surely sincere

    I think that word "surely" is very interesting. It's almost like Sam Harris is trying to convince himself on that point. He doesn't want to believe it's not true. But I think he finds it hard to reconcile the two - sincere engagement with science and consulting oracles. He's flummoxed.

    The writer is being disingenuous, though - there are obvious reasons for the Dalai Lama to engage with woo-woo that aren't anything to do with intelligence, status, or dignity.

    I'm not sure (since I don't know much of anything about him) if Sam Harris can relate to that concept.
     
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    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    I think he definitely loses face with Sam Harris. This is Sam Harris criticizing the Dalai Lama for doing something Sam Harris would consider an embarrassment if he did it himself. He probably thinks everyone in the world should be "above that", including someone as important as the Dalai Lama is in setting an example for others.
    :thumbsup:
     
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