📙 Sophie’s World

— by Jostein Gaarder (1991).

Do please allow me to introduce to you, Sophie’s World, by Jostein Gaarder (by the by, it was published in Norwegian in 1991 and then in English in 1994). It is a novel of sorts that seems to align with Bertrand Russell’s 1945, History of Western Philosophy. I say “of sorts” because essentially I see it as a way — one of many, see e.g.: “Put simply” — of making the key philosophers and their main ideas more accessible to the likes of me.

📙 Sophie’s World
inspired by Bertrand Russell’s:
📙 History of Western Philosophy


REFERENCE

Gaarder, J. (1994). Sophie’s World. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.


The novel centres on Sophie Amundsen, who is introduced to the history of philosophy by one Alberto Knox, a lecturer in philosophy by way of a number of letters and various other, often somewhat cryptic, mediums.

يا صوفيا 🍉 هلا و غلا


Every day, a letter comes to Sophie’s mailbox that contains a few questions and then later in the day a package comes with some typed pages describing the ideas of a philosopher who dealt with the issues raised by that morning’s questions. The philosopher, Alberto Knox, sends her these packages via his aptly named dog, ‘Hermes.’

Sophie’s World, by Jostein Gaarder (1st ed. 1991)
Lets delve, together you and I, into the rabbit hole.

Alberto first tells Sophie that philosophy is extremely relevant to life and that if we do not question and ponder our very existence we are not really living. Then he proceeds to go through the history of Western philosophy. Sophie (and us readers) gets a reasonably coherent extended review from the Pre-Socratics to Jean-Paul Sartre. We get by way of Alberto, key points regarding the Renaissance, Romanticism, and Existentialism, as well as Darwinism and the ideas of Karl Marx. I thought it might be interesting to consider his categorisation, it is stated as being focused on ‘Western’ philosophy so the omission of the other canons is an acknowledged one.

Ancient Philosophy

— The Pre-Socratics
Including: Thales, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles & Democritus
Socrates, Plato & Aristotle
— Ancient Philosophy after Aristotle
Including: the Cynics, the Epicureans, the Stoics & Plotinus

Catholic Philosophy

— The Fathers
Including: St Augustine & Pope Gregory
— The Schoolmen
Including: St Thomas Aquinas

Modern Philosophy

— From the Renaissance to Hume
Including: Machiavelli, Erasmus, More, Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Locke & Hume
— From Rousseau to the Present Day
Including: Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Byron, Nietzsche, the Utilitarians, Marx & William James.

I don’t like to paraphrase the following remarks but life ain’t always gunna b nice to you so, here goes, a reviewer at Publishers Weekly (familiarly known in the book world as PW and, they say, “the bible of the book business” has been printing out literary reviews since 1872 and somewhere along the timeline decided to drop the apostrophe) did write something along the lines of this: Regardless of age many readers will be tempted to skip over the somewhat “dryly written” philosophical lessons — which are not particularly integrated with the “more engaging” meta-fictional story line. This reminds me of something Li Yu is said to have said in his Carnal Prayer Mat.


How low contemporary morals have sunk! But if you write a moral tract exhorting people to virtue, [you] will you get no one to buy it.

Which is akin to the marketing adage/joke:


SEX
— Ah! Now that I have your attention, let me tell you about something completely different. . .

Providing a polar opposite perspective is Steven Gambardella. He writes that Sophie’s World has changed the lives of millions of people and is the “red pill of literature.” It is “the best place to start reading about philosophy” and “eloquently captures the wonder of philosophy, the giddiness you feel when you realise you are floating in space.” The rabbit is sketched to be representative of the universe. In the book, we humans are compared to tiny insects in the rabbit’s fur. Some of us burrow down into the warmth of the fur, while the philosophers among us climb to the tops of the hairs “to stare right into the magician’s eyes.” As Gambardella states, it was written by a high school teacher with a passion for the subject, became a bestseller and has now “sold over 40 million copies.”

The red pill and blue pill is a meme representing a choice between taking either a “red pill” that reveals an unpleasant truth, or taking a “blue pill” to remain in blissful ignorance. The terms and concept are taken verbatim from a scene in the 1999 film The Matrix.
rabbit-hole
Run rabbit run, take me into the abyss — the deep and bottomless midnight zone of eye & ur innermost consciousnesses.
Going [reaching || falling] down the rabbit hole
Falling / Going / Reaching down the rabbit hole, is a metaphor for something that transports someone into a ‘troublingly’ (or possibly too ‘wonderfully’) surreal state or situation.
The Persistence of Memory
“The Persistence of Memory”
By Salvador Dalí (1931). One of the most recognisable works of Surrealism [Spanish title: La persistencia de la memoria].
By hook or by crook, let them — these contemporaries of Sappho and idols of Catullus — reach down into your rabbit hole; let Freud & co. sweet-talk you there, bent over, cowering under or splayed out on the psychologist’s faux-leather, mock-Chesterfield couch.
On a tangent of his own Gambardella says that philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom — knowledge is merely instrumental and is applied to get us by — it is thought about thought. Knowledge of philosophy, he argues, allows us to enhance our pleasures and diminish our pains of our own accord. He quotes Seneca as saying:


Without [Philosophical pondering] no one can lead a life free of fear or worry. Every hour of the day countless situations arise that call for advice, and for that advice we have to look to [it].

Me, well I’m a dipper (skinny I wish) and this applies to all that I read and my writings and musings too. The chalice or urn is neither overflowing or bone dry. It is, I submit to you, bang in the middle. The purpose of this book in my view is to encourage us to think for ourselves, question things that are taken as given and doubt dogmas, as Gaarder writes, “my concern [, dear Sophie,] is that you do not grow up to be one of those people who take the world for granted.” I’d take the red over the blue, politically and metaphorically speaking and in relation to the pleasures and pains of love too.

I’ll end with a nod to who I’m guessing was an influence on Gaarder: Bertrand Russell. Russell was an English philosopher and campaigner for freedom (of expression and from authoritarian control). Reassuringly — to me anyway — he said do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once seen as being eccentric.

The History of Western Philosophy


Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.

Bertrand Russell


The fundamental cause of trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.

Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell


p.s.
Consider visiting Bidoonism’s page on Philosophy and/or reading her recent reviews of the following works:

Eldridge, R. T. (Ed.). (2009). The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gottlieb, A. (2000). The Dream of Reason: a History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

Gottlieb, A. (2016). The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy. London: Penguin.

Grayling, A. C. (2019). The History of Philosophy. London: Penguin.

Kenny, A. (1998). An Illustrated Brief History of Western Philosophy. New York: John Wiley & Sons

Russell, B. (1945). A History of Western Philosophy. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.

Put simply

&|| succinctly

There is a book which says a fair bit about me — I went a bit ‘Radio Rentals’ (you know what I mean, a stint of, or a stretch at, ‘doolally’) and frenetically purchased the whole series. Of the set, there was this particular one that, for a bit, I totally cherished — it became my bible & my constant companion, my succour & my sanctum sanatorium (sic.[k]) — but after a time and in a cathartic act of getting-the-fuck-over-him, I dispensed with it (alongside its fellow brethren to the large green municipality garbage (no: ‘rubbish’; no “GARBAGE”) skip (bin or tin) beside the house in which I’m obligated to reside in). However, it found its way back to me and I, once more (“for better or for worse”), took it in again. You see, he’d ‘magically’ found high resolution electronic versions of it and all the other titles and sent them to me, as is his way, with artfully articulated apologies and long letters of regret and remorse for, amongst many other things, his self-destructive ways in which I all too often bare the brunt. He too, by the way, is a flipping expert in throwing everything away and beginning anew — he takes so-called “cleansing baths,” the idea being that baptism-like, he’ll rise from the waters shorn of sin and shed of snake oil (he being phoenix-like; the ashes, the lives of those he messes around with). But the things he throws out (with the bath water, so to speak) soon get reintroduced: for escape, he says — and I concur — is a fallacy because, one cannot escape one’s self (he and I both give short shrift to things like near death experiences being anything other than wholly imagined phenomena).

Thomas De Quincey on Opium
“Thou only givest these gifts to man, and thou hast the keys of Paradise, O just, subtle, and mighty opium!” — he’d quote such things to me. . . O Blackest Spot! Are you musing? Yours, your muse.

This is the book:

(DK) The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained
DK. (2011) The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited.
As I seek context for its cover quotes, by way of organic light-emitting diodes, it stares luridly back at me, unblinkingly and unrelentingly. It, in my sore eyes, acts as a testament to the truism that knowledge rarely begets bliss. n.b., I’ll be heading out into the dunes real soon.


Mind has no gender.

Mary Wollstonecraft
An English writer and philosopher (1759–1797) who, inter alia, advocated for gender neutrality in all domains of society. “She” alas (not a lass) is almost unique in this anthology. Yet, maybe this whole endeavour is both infantile and futile; and thus a forte of man. But no! The millennia old quest to definitively discover, determine and frame consciousness is too important to be left to mankind alone. That we evidently aren’t represented in this field doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t seek and strive to become so: per ardua ad astra & all a dat.


I think therefore I am.

René Descartes
A French thinker (1596–1650) who is considered one of the instigators of modern (Western) philosophy (and a key member of La Ville Lumière), his most noted line: “Cogito, ergo sum,” penned in Latin, is quoted above. I can confirm to you here and now that I am very much alive and mulling over my abject melancholy tonight. Whether or, whether not, you too are thinking thoughts now in the dead of night, one can only speculate.


We only think when we are confronted with problems.

John Dewey
An American philosopher and psychologist (1859–1952) who believed profoundly in democracy, be it in e.g., politics, education or media communication; he once said that is was synonymous with the “ultimate, ethical ideal of humanity.”


Humans are born free, yet everywhere they are in chains.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
A French/Swiss philosopher (1712–1778) who had great influence on the progress of the Enlightenment throughout Europe by way of e.g., his works: “Discourse on Inequality” and “The Social Contract” — cornerstones still of contemporary political and socioeconomic thinking (Rousseau was a member of La Ville Lumière). I am chained to memories of u; i am chained too by patriarchy and an increasingly bellicose and jingoistic society.


Imaginations decide everything.

Blaise Pascal
A French mathematician, physicist, inventor and philosopher (1623–1662). Pascal made important contributions to the study of fluids, concepts of pressure and vacuum as well as writing in support of the scientific method.


To be is to be perceived.

George Berkeley
An Irish philosopher (&c.) (1685–1753) who put forth a a theory which he called “immaterialism” which denies the existence of material substance, instead contending that things like books and pens are only ideas in our minds and exist only because we perceived them to be.


The universe has not always existed.

Thomas Aquinas
An Italian philosopher (1225–1274) who is considered to be the most famous of all medieval Christian philosophers. English philosopher Anthony Kenny contends that Aquinas is amongst the dozen “greatest philosophers of the western world.”


Humans are animals that make bargains.

Adam Smith
A Scottish philosopher and pioneer of political economy (1723–1790). known by some as “The Father of Economics” he is perhaps most famous for his work, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), and the concept of ‘the invisible hand.’


Humans are machines.

Thomas Hobbes
An English philosopher (1588–1679) who’s considered to be one of the founders of modern political philosophy in large part because of his 1651 book Leviathan. This work was seminal in terms of setting out social contract theory.


Humans are the measure if all things.

Protagoras
An Ancient Greek philosopher (c. 490–420 BCE) who is said also to have said, “many things prevent knowledge, including the obscurity of the subject and the brevity of human life.”


Happy is the one who has overcome their ego.

Siddhartha Gautama
An Indian philosopher (c. 563–483 BCE) who was later lionised as the Buddha, he’s said to have said the following string of words: The mind is everything. What you think, you become.


The human is an invention of a recent date.

Michel Foucault
A French social theorist and philosopher (1926-1984) Foucault saw himself as a critic of modernity (see: la-ville-lumiere). Interestingly he was convinced that the study of philosophy must begin through a close and ongoing study of history.


The ends justifies the means.

Niccolò Machiavelli
An Italian thinker (1469–1527) who famously submitted the following: while it would be best to be both loved and feared, the two rarely coincide, and thus, greater security is found in the latter.


There is nothing outside of the text.

Jacques Derrida
A French philosopher (1930–2004), who is considered by some to be rather controversial in relation to his concept of “deconstruction” — a complex and nuanced approach to how we read and understand the nature of written texts. In an egalitarian kind of way he believed that we are all, “mediators and translators.” He said too that he never gave in to, “the temptation to be difficult just for the sake of being difficult.”


Act as if what you do makes a difference.

William James
An American philosopher and psychologist (1842–1910) who is said now to be the “Father of American psychology.” In a seminal work for the field of psychology — Pragmatism (1907, p. 45) — he wrote, “there can be no difference that doesn’t make a difference.”


Life will be lived all the better if it has no meaning.

Albert Camus
A French philosopher (1913–1960) who said, “fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” Even more interestingly, in my humble view, he argued that (hu)man(kind) is the only creature who refuses to be what they are. I dunno m8 but i fink he means we are but animals (dressed in garments) but we seek to act and pretend we are more higher than our baser instincts and our animistic (sum times cannibalistic) tendencies.


Over one’s own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

John Stuart Mill
An English philosopher (1806–1873) who said the following: “Under whatever conditions, and within whatever limits, men are admitted to the suffrage, there is not a shadow of justification for not admitting women under the same.” He’s pretty bloody amazing actually. Not only was he for equality between the genders but he was also an advocate of free speech and the limiting of the powers of authority over the citizenry. . .


(DK) The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained
— only a fool’d neglect the b’ side.


The life which is unexamined is not worth living.

Socrates
An Ancient Greek philosopher (469–399 BCE) who is considered to be one of the founders of Western philosophy. Interestingly so because he himself wrote nothing. What he did do, however, was persistently ask challenging questions.


Humans are something to be surpassed.

Friedrich Nietzsche
A German philosopher (1844–1900), who amongst other things, believed that so-called religious morality, with its emphasis on kindness, meekness, subservience to a greater good, and a focus on the afterlife rather than the present condition, did not reflect how the world actually works.


The soul is distinct from the body.

Plato
An Ancient Greek philosopher (c.428 – c.348 BCE) and was one of Socrates’ muses. In terms of, “the soul is distinct from the body”. . . I ask: is it though? I mean, like I said about them near death-experiences, you kind of know what to imagine, floating up off of the bed, your life flashing by condensed to a dozen at most vivid events splatters in stark relief. I mean who’s managed to can a soul? Who has actually continued bereft of their blinking body?


Reason lives in language.

— Emmanuel Levinas
A French philosopher (1906–1995) known for his inquiries into existentialism, ethics and ontology.


Truth resides in the world around us.

Aristotle
An Ancient Greek philosopher (384–322 BCE) who said too: “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence. We should know tat it is from Aristotle’s writings and teachings that the West inherited its intellectual lexicon, as well as the key problems to ponder and moreover, methods of inquiry. As the polymath did make clear: “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”


Knowledge is power.

Francis Bacon
An English philosopher (1561–1626) whose work is credited with developing the scientific method hence sometimes being called “the father of empiricism.” For me it is the following words of his that I feel most affinity too: “In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.”


Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.

Voltaire
A French Enlightenment era philosopher (1694–1778) famous for his wit as well as his criticism of religion and his advocacy of freedom of speech. He was a founding member of La Ville Lumière. Tellingly he was fond of saying the following: Those who can make you believe absurdities (e.g., the supernatural) can make you commit atrocities (e.g., coercive indoctrination). This was especially the case, I’ve somewhere read, as an encore to peach soufflé.


The fundamental cause of trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.

Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell

RELATED READINGS

Eldridge, R. T. (Ed.). (2009). The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gottlieb, A. (2000). The Dream of Reason: a History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

Gottlieb, A. (2016). The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy. London: Penguin.

Grayling, A. C. (2019). The History of Philosophy. London: Penguin.

Kenny, A. (1998). An Illustrated Brief History of Western Philosophy. New York: John Wiley & Sons

Russell, B. (1945). A History of Western Philosophy. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.


End (is nigh) notes
This post ^ is a consequence of summer recess and purdah.

Death reincarnate

Lord, have mercy, fire & brimstone
I’ve been dancing with Master D

Nefarious
NefariousKnavish
a wicked activity | dishonest & unscrupulous
I read today an article by Yuval Noah Harari“Attitudes to Death” — that used corona as a flag to muse over humankind’s attitudes to death: in the past life after death was considered a dead certainty (for peasants in pestilence, paradise was presumably a positive prospect), nowadays science reigns supreme, it is faith in cutting-edge technology as an enabler of ever greater stays of execution that had arisen to become our confession of choice.

The modern world has been shaped by the belief that humans can outsmart and defeat death. That was a revolutionary new attitude. For most of history, humans meekly submitted to death. Up to the late modern age, most religions and ideologies saw death not only as our inevitable fate, but as the main source of meaning in life. The most important events of human existence happened after you exhaled your last breath. Only then did you come to learn the true secrets of life. Only then did you gain eternal salvation, or suffer everlasting damnation. In a world without death – and therefore without heaven, hell or reincarnation – religions such as Christianity, Islam and Hinduism would have made no sense. For most of history the best human minds were busy giving meaning to death, not trying to defeat it.

The Epic of Gilgamesh, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, the Bible, the Qur’an, the Vedas, and countless other sacred books and tales patiently explained to distressed humans that we die because God decreed it, or the Cosmos, or Mother Nature, and we had better accept that destiny with humility and grace. Perhaps someday God would abolish death through a grand metaphysical gesture such as Christ’s second coming. But orchestrating such cataclysms was clearly above the pay grade of flesh-and-blood humans. . . .


God causes you to live, then causes you to die; then He will assemble you for the Day of Resurrection, about which there is no doubt,’ but most of the people do not know.

— Quran, 45:26


Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.

— John, 5:28-29

. . . Then came the scientific revolution. For scientists, death isn’t a divine decree – it is merely a technical problem. Humans die not because God said so, but because of some technical glitch. The heart stops pumping blood. Cancer has destroyed the liver. Viruses multiply in the lungs. And what is responsible for all these technical problems? Other technical problems. The heart stops pumping blood because not enough oxygen reaches the heart muscle. Cancerous cells spread in the liver because of some chance genetic mutation. Viruses settled in my lungs because somebody sneezed on the bus. Nothing metaphysical about it.

And science believes that every technical problem has a technical solution. We don’t need to wait for Christ’s second coming in order to overcome death. A couple of scientists in a lab can do it. Whereas traditionally death was the speciality of priests and theologians in black cassocks, now it’s the folks in white lab coats. If the heart flutters, we can stimulate it with a pacemaker or even transplant a new heart. If cancer rampages, we can kill it with radiation. If viruses proliferate in the lungs, we can subdue them with some new medicine.

True, at present we cannot solve all technical problems. But we are working on them. The best human minds no longer spend their time trying to give meaning to death. Instead, they are busy extending life. They are investigating the microbiological, physiological and genetic systems responsible for disease and old age, and developing new medicines and revolutionary treatments.

In their struggle to extend life, humans have been remarkably successful. Over the last two centuries, average life expectancy has jumped from under 40 years to 72 in the entire world, and to more than 80 in some developed countries. Children in particular have succeeded in escaping death’s clutches. Until the 20th century, at least a third of children never reached adulthood. Youngsters routinely succumbed to childhood diseases such as dysentery, measles and smallpox. In 17th-century England, about 150 out of every 1,000 newborns died during their first year, and only about 700 made it to age 15. Today, only five out of 1,000 English babies die during their first year, and 993 get to celebrate their 15th birthday. In the world as a whole, child mortality is down to less than 5 per cent.

Humans have been so successful in our attempt to safeguard and prolong life that our worldview has changed in a profound way. While traditional religions considered the afterlife as the main source of meaning, from the 18th century ideologies such as liberalism, socialism and feminism lost all interest in the afterlife. What, exactly, happens to a communist after he or she dies? What happens to a capitalist? What happens to a feminist? It is pointless to look for the answer in the writings of Karl Marx, Adam Smith or Simone de Beauvoir.

The only modern ideology that still awards death a central role is nationalism. In its more poetic and desperate moments, nationalism promises that whoever dies for the nation will live forever in its collective memory. Yet this promise is so fuzzy that even most nationalists do not really know what to make of it. How do you actually “live” in memory? If you are dead, how do you know whether people remember you or not? Woody Allen was once asked if he hoped to live for ever in the memory of moviegoers. Allen answered: “I’d rather live on in my apartment.” Even many traditional religions have switched focus. Instead of promising some heaven in the afterlife, they have begun to put far more emphasis on what they can do for you in this life.

The only modern ideology that still awards death a central role is nationalism

Will the current pandemic change human attitudes to death? Probably not. Just the opposite. Covid-19 will probably cause us to only double our efforts to protect human lives. For the dominant cultural reaction to Covid-19 isn’t resignation – it is a mixture of outrage and hope.

When an epidemic erupted in a pre-modern society such as medieval Europe, people of course feared for their lives and were devastated by the death of loved ones, but the main cultural reaction was one of resignation. Psychologists might call it “learned helplessness”. People told themselves it was God’s will – or perhaps divine retribution for the sins of humankind. “God knows best. We wicked humans deserve it. And you will see, it will all turn out for the best in the end. Don’t worry, good people will get their reward in heaven. And don’t waste time looking for a medicine. This disease was sent by God to punish us. Those who think humans can overcome this epidemic by their own ingenuity are merely adding the sin of vanity to their other crimes. Who are we to thwart God’s plans?”

Attitudes today are the polar opposite. Whenever some disaster kills many people – a train accident, a high-rise fire, even a hurricane – we tend to view it as a preventable human failure rather than as divine punishment or an inevitable natural calamity. If the train company didn’t stint on its safety budget, if the municipality had adopted better fire regulations, and if the government had sent help quicker – these people could have been saved. In the 21st century, mass death has become an automatic reason for lawsuits and investigations.

This is our attitude towards plagues, too. While some religious preachers were quick to describe Aids as God’s punishment for gay people, modern society mercifully relegated such views to its lunatic fringes, and these days we generally view the spread of Aids, Ebola and other recent epidemics as organisational failures. We assume that humankind has the knowledge and tools necessary to curb such plagues, and if an infectious disease nevertheless gets out of control, it is due to human incompetence rather than divine anger. Covid-19 is no exception to this rule. The crisis is far from over, yet the blame game has already begun. Different countries accuse one another. Rival politicians throw responsibility from one to the other like a hand-grenade without a pin.

Alongside outrage, there is also a tremendous amount of hope. Our heroes aren’t the priests who bury the dead and excuse the calamity – our heroes are the medics who save lives. And our super-heroes are those scientists in the laboratories. Just as moviegoers know that Spiderman and Wonder Woman will eventually defeat the bad guys and save the world, so we are quite sure that within a few months, perhaps a year, the folks in the labs will come up with effective treatments for Covid-19 and even a vaccination. Then we’ll show this nasty coronavirus who is the alpha organism on this planet! The question on the lips of everybody from the White House, through Wall Street all the way to the balconies of Italy is: “When will the vaccine be ready?” When. Not if.

When the vaccine is indeed ready and the pandemic is over, what will be humanity’s main takeaway? In all likelihood, it will be that we need to invest even more efforts in protecting human lives. We need to have more hospitals, more doctors, more nurses. We need to stockpile more respiratory machines, more protective gear, more testing kits. We need to invest more money in researching unknown pathogens and developing novel treatments. We should not be caught off guard again.

Some might well argue that this is the wrong lesson, and that the crisis should teach us humility. We shouldn’t be so sure of our ability to subdue the forces of nature. Many of these naysayers are medieval holdouts, who preach humility while being 100% certain that they know all the right answers. Some bigots cannot help themselves – a pastor who leads weekly Bible study for Donald Trump’s cabinet has argued that this epidemic too is divine punishment for homosexuality. But even most paragons of tradition nowadays put their trust in science rather than in scripture.

The Catholic church instructs the faithful to stay away from the churches. Israel has closed down its synagogues. The Islamic Republic of Iran is discouraging people from visiting mosques. Temples and sects of all kinds have suspended public ceremonies. And all because scientists have made calculations, and recommended closing down these holy places.

Of course, not everyone who warns us about human hubris dreams of getting medieval. Even scientists would agree that we should be realistic in our expectations, and that we shouldn’t develop blind faith in the power of doctors to shield us from all of life’s calamities. While humanity as a whole becomes ever more powerful, individual people still need to face their fragility. Perhaps in a century or two science will extend human lives indefinitely, but not yet. With the possible exception of a handful of billionaire babies, all of us today are going to die one day, and all of us will lose loved ones. We have to own up to our transience.

For centuries, people used religion as a defence mechanism, believing that they would exist for ever in the afterlife. Now people sometimes switch to using science as an alternative defence mechanism, believing that doctors will always save them, and that they will live for ever in their apartment. We need a balanced approach here. We should trust science to deal with epidemics, but we should still shoulder the burden of dealing with our individual mortality and transience. . . .

“Last Judgement”
A triptych by one Hans Memling (1466–1473)

. . . The present crisis might indeed make many individuals more aware of the impermanent nature of human life and human achievements. Nevertheless, our modern civilisation as a whole will most probably go in the opposite direction. Reminded of its fragility, it will react by building stronger defences. When the present crisis is over, I don’t expect we will see a significant increase in the budgets of philosophy departments. But I bet we will see a massive increase in the budgets of medical schools and healthcare systems.

And maybe that is the best we can humanly expect. Governments anyhow aren’t very good at philosophy. It isn’t their domain. Governments really should focus on building better healthcare systems. It is up to individuals to do better philosophy. Doctors cannot solve the riddle of existence for us. But they can buy us some more time to grapple with it. What we do with that time is up to us.



Sleep, those little slices of death — how I loathe them.

Allen Edgar Poe 📙 “The Tell-Tale Heart”

“A Fit Medicine for Melancholy”

Prank-Star
Robin Goodfellow: His Mad Pranks and Merry Jests


Footnote

* Resurrection or anastasis is the concept of coming back to life after death. It is mentioned in the scripts of various ancient Near Eastern religions. Sir James Frazer in his book The Golden Bough brings to light several references to Egyptian and Babylonian resurrection happenings (i.e., Osiris and Baal). In Greek mythology too: Asclepius was killed by Zeus, only to be resurrected and transformed into a major deity. Achilles, after being killed, was snatched from his funeral pyre by his divine mother Thetis and resurrected. In the King Jame bible, the character Jesus is said to have raised several dead people such as the daughter of Jairus shortly after death, a young man in the midst of his own funeral procession, and Lazarus of Bethany, who had been six feet under for almost a week. Christians regard the resurrection of Jesus as the central doctrine in Christianity.

All that glitters

Pyrite / an iron sulfide / FeS2

Please allow me to introduce to you, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, by James Frazer (1st ed. 1890; 2nd ed. 1913). (📙 The Golden Bough.)

You know, when we English Lit. students dream of being writers, we somehow think we’ve something to add to the canon, in some ways, we all have, but the more I dig, the more I scan Project Gutenberg (e t c .),* the more I realise that countless thousands who’ve lived (read, thought, written) and died before I was pushed out into this world, have probably (no ‘definitely’) thought what I think (far more deeply), have set out to articulate what I abstractedly and dreamily plan to one day articulate (& they’ve actually done so in concrete codex form). I feel I’m in the dead calm at the very centre of a tropical vortex –((( it’s wondered off course, North, for I reside in The Pearl; a multi-story complex built beside an artificial lagoon on a peninsula that juts out into the tepid seawater of the Arabian Gulf. Languid in largesse the panoramic view is beset by an unrelenting, near blinding, shimmer — the sun bleaches and becalms vigour. Maritime scenes are confused by midday mirages, mercury in colour — oil money stymies gainful endevour. )))– for I’ve scedules and to-do-lists, ambitions and passions, but I’m laying here listless. And while all is swirling tumultuously around me I’m strapped down by paralysis, I want to write, I want to let it bleed, I so dearly want “writing to be my therapy” as we’d say to each other it would be. We’d say such things in abstract ways mulling over a potential future parting of ways that neither you or I, back then, could seriously contemplate as a possible eventuality. // The whirlpool’s walls tower up indeterminately, they seem to be leaning in, this could be an optical illusion, but more likely it is nature’s way via the force of gravity; you sea, once I had it all; now I’ve nothing at all. \\ They’d say things like “he’s a man of letters” — I’ve read it said — and I’ll update that to be s/he, but yes, in the days before swiping right and switching swiftly between screens, writers on their typewriters (or with paper and gravity aloof pencils), would certainly have been better readers and thus better writers. I was born less than half a dozen years before the millennium, iPads were out before I was into my teenage years. I can’t compare the past to now from knowledge of both, but I’m confident that reading (in say the Victorian/Edwardian way/day) is increasingly a rarity today. On my bloody fucking university campus most key text books are only supplied to us as eBooks (I ain’t even lying . . . I will walk and I will talk).

Here’s an extract — the Preface to a follow-on work The Aftermath (1936) the language, I think, is sublime:

When I first put pen to paper to write The Golden Rough I had no conception of the magnitude of the voyage on which I was embarking ; I thought only to explain a single rule of an ancient Italian priesthood. But insensibly I was led on, step by step, into surveying, as from some specular height, some Pisgah of the mind, a great part of the human race ; I was beguiled, as by some subtle enchanter, into inditing what I cannot but regard as a dark, a tragic chronicle of human error and folly, of fruitless endeavour, wasted time, and blighted hopes. At the best the chronicle may serve as a warning, as a sort of Ariadne’s thread, to help the forlorn wayfarer to shun some of the snares and pitfalls into which his fellows have fallen before him in the labyrinth of life. Such as it is, with all its shortcomings, I now submit The Golden Bough in its completed form to the judgment of my contemporaries, and perhaps of posterity.

Here is another one:

The advance of knowledge is an infinite progression towards a goal that for ever recedes. We need not murmur at the endless pursuit:
 
Fatti non foste a viver come bruti
Ma per seguir virtute e conoscenza.
**
 
Great things will come of that pursuit, though we may not enjoy them. Brighter stars will rise on some voyager of the future—some great Ulysses of the realms of thought—than shine on us. The dreams of magic may one day be the waking realities of science. But a dark shadow lies athwart the far end of this fair prospect. For however vast the increase of knowledge and of power which the future may have in store for man, he can scarcely hope to stay the sweep of those great forces which seem to be making silently but relentlessly for the destruction of all this starry universe in which our earth swims as a speck or mote. In the ages to come man may be able to predict, perhaps even to control, the wayward courses of the winds and clouds, but hardly will his puny hands have strength to speed afresh our slackening planet in its orbit or rekindle the dying fire of the sun. Yet the philosopher who trembles at the idea of such distant catastrophes may console himself by reflecting that these gloomy apprehensions, like the earth and the sun themselves, are only parts of that unsubstantial world which thought has conjured up out of the void, and that the phantoms which the subtle enchantress has evoked to-day she may ban to-morrow. They too, like so much that to common eyes seems solid, may melt into air, into thin air.


Foot notes

* Project Gutenberg is the world’s oldest digital library. It places books into the public domain — most are older works that are thus out of copyright. This altruistic endevour began with the efforts of American writer Michael S. Hart in 1971. See for example: 📙 The Golden Bough. A similar project is called The Internet Archive. It provides free access to researchers and the general public. It’s mission is none other than to provide universal access to all knowledge thus far accumulated by human kind. See for example: 📙 Aftermath, a Supplement to the Golden Bough

** “You were not made to live as brutes / But to follow virtue and knowledge.”
— From Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

Fiction as truth

or, vice versa?

This is a review of sorts of Robert Lane Fox’s 1991 The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible.

REFERENCE
Fox, R. L. (1991). The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible. London: Viking.

Robin Lane Fox, in The Unauthorized Version, sets out to discover how far biblical descriptions of people, places and events are confirmed or contradicted by historical fact: external written and archaeological evidence. As Penguin the publishers do say, “the bible is inspirational and endlessly fascinating but, is it true? From a rather different viewpoint Richard Dawkins — author of The God Delusion (2006) — says that “the God of the [bible’s] Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Dawkins also says:


We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in.

With regard to The Unauthorized Version, Barton (1993) writes, anyone who hopes that this book will totally ridicule the bible and mock the religious establishment for continuing to propagate its stories as ‘gospel truths’ will be in for disappointment. I would say that Fox does his best to be objective and not offend those who still believe in religion. Another reviewer wrote that Fox’s work, “brings many examples that will help neophytes to probe the historical veracity of the bible” and that, “it is clear that there are lots of contradictions within and in between the bible’s stories.” I note that various reviews of this book consider that it is poorly organised — I myself would have liked a clearer chronology and for chapters of the book to follow the chapters of ‘The Book.’ Joel Swagman (2013) in his review of The Unauthorized Version provides the following sound advice to all wannabe book reviewers (a.k.a., me, Anna, Anna Bidoonism) and it is this:


The cardinal rule of book reviewing is to review the book you’ve read, not the book you want/wish to have read.

Now, I won’t even pretend that I’ve read all of this book and I am defiantly new to all of this (I’m a neophyte). I have tried a few times and I have dipped in and out. But what I see from this book is that a lot of the Bible is actually from stories that occurred well before Christianity itself was born. In fact, I am fascinated by the subject of this book because so much art and literature is based upon biblical stories. As an English Literature student, I see no alternative but to gain a good working knowledge of the bible, as it has become — for the Western canon — the most influential work of scripture… I mean, I mean, ‘literature.’ As they say, don’t shoot the messenger…


Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.

John Locke

Knowledge is key (and need not be value-laden)…


The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.

Anaïs Nin

In light of this, here are some interesting audios (along with partial transcripts, hats off to Yale) — I am talking well over 50 hour’s worth. I’ll say this, these audios are organised in a fully chronological way, not that Fox’s work was ever designed or meant to be. However, for me to one day be able to actually appreciate The Unauthorized Version and critique it in any meaningful way, I must first listen to, and read along with, these:

THE OLD TESTAMENT
39 parts: c. 1200–165 B.C.
•   •   •   •   •   •
Divided into three groups: (A) ‘The Law’ or ‘Pentateuch’ which covers ‘Genesis’ to ‘Deuteronomy’ (B), ‘The Prophets’ and (C), ‘The Writings’ which includes ‘the Psalms’ (songs and prayers), ‘the Proverbs’ (sayings of wisdom) and ‘Job’ (the nature of suffering).
THE NEW TESTAMENT
27 parts: c. 50–100 A.D.
•   •   •   •   •   •
Divided into two groups: (A) ‘The Letters’ or ‘The Epistles’ and (B), ‘The Gospels’ which includes the story of Jesus, ‘Revelation, ‘the Battle of Armageddon’, the tale of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the tale of the ‘Hideous Beast no. 666’ and, ‘the End of Days…’

THE OLD TESTAMENT
01. — The Parts of the Whole
02. — The Hebrew Bible in Its Ancient Near Eastern Setting
03. — The Hebrew Bible: Genesis 1–4
04. — Doublets and Contradictions: the Historical-Critical Method
05. — Critical Approaches
06. — Stories of the Patriarchs
07. — Israel in Egypt
08. — From Egypt to Sinai
09. — Cult and Sacrifice
10. — Biblical Law: JE (‘Exodus’), P (‘Leviticus’ & ‘Numbers’) & D (‘Deuteronomy’)
11. — On the Steps of Moab: Deuteronomy
12. — Deuteronomistic History: Life in the Land (‘Joshua’ & ‘Judges’)
13. — Deuteronomistic History: Prophets and Kings (1 & 2 ‘Samuel’)
14. — Deuteronomistic History: Response to Catastrophe (1 & 2 Kings)
15. — Hebrew Prophecy
16. — Literary Prophecy: ‘Amos’
17. — Literary Prophecy: ‘Hosea’ & ‘Isaiah’
18. — Literary Prophecy: ‘Micah,’ ‘Zephaniah,’ ‘Nahum’ & ‘Habbakuk’
19. — Literary Prophecy: Perspectives on the Exile
20. — Suffering and Evil
21. — Biblical Poetry: Psalms and Song of Songs
22. — The Restoration: 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah
23. — Visions of the End: ‘Daniel’ and Apocalyptic Literature
24. — Alternative Visions: Esther, Ruth, and Jonah

THE NEW TESTAMENT
01. — Why Study the New Testament?
02. — From Stories to Canon
03. — The Greco-Roman World
04. — Judaism in the First Century
05. — The New Testament as History
06. — The Gospel of Mark
07. — The Gospel of Matthew
08. — The Gospel of Thomas
09. — The Gospel of Luke
10. — The Acts of the Apostles
11. — Johannine Christianity: the Gospel
12. — Johannine Christianity: the Letters
13. — The Historical Jesus
14. — Paul as Missionary
15. — Paul as Pastor
16. — Paul as Jewish Theologian
17. — Paul’s Disciples
18. — Arguing with Paul?
19. — The “Household” Paul: the Pastorals
20. — The “Anti-household” Paul: Thecla
21. — Interpreting Scripture: Hebrews
22. — Interpreting Scripture: Medieval Interpretations
23. — Apocalyptic and Resistance
24. — Apocalyptic and Accommodation
25. — Ecclesiastical Institutions: Unity, Martyrs, and Bishops
26. — The “Afterlife” and Postmodern Interpretation


More books by Robin Lane Fox:

Other books & ephemera:


REFERENCES
Barton, J. (1993). The Good Book and True. The New York Review of Books.
Dawkins, R. (2006). The God Delusion. London: Bantam Books.
Dawkins, R. (2011). The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True. London: Bantam Press.
Fox, R. L. (1973). Alexander the Great. London: Allen Lane.
Fox, R. L. (1991). The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible. London: Viking.
Fox, R. L. (2005). The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian. London: Allen Lane.
Fox, R. L. (2008). Travelling Heroes: Greeks and Their Myths in the Epic Age of Homer. London: Allen Lane.
Hayes C. (2015). What’s Divine about Divine Law? Early Perspectives. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Martin, D. B. (2004). Inventing Superstition. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Martin, D. B. (2010). Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation. Louisville: John Knox Press.
Swagman, J. (2013). The Unauthorized Version. Random Book Reviews.

POST SCRIPT

Bloodthirsty
Having or showing a desire to kill and maim. — “He really was nothing more than a bloodthirsty dictator.”


Capricious
To have sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behaviour. — “A capricious and often brutal administration.”


Filicidal
The killing of one’s son or daughter.


Genocidal
Relating to or involving the deliberate killing of a large group of people of a particular nation or ethnic group. — “He really was nothing more than a genocidal dictator.”


Homophobic
Having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people. — “Most religious texts contain homophobic tracts.”


Infanticide
A person who kills an infant, especially their own child.


Malevolent
To have or show a desire to do evil to others. — “There was a flash of dark malevolence in his eyes.”


Megalomaniac
A person who has an obsessive desire for power. [and/or] A person who suffers delusions of their own power or importance.


Misogynist
A person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women. — “Donald Trump is a renowned and unrepentant misogynist.”


Neophyte
A person who is new to a subject or activity.


Pestilential
Relating to or tending to cause infectious diseases. — INFORMAL: annoying — “What a pestilential man!”


Sadomasochistic
Characterised by or deriving sexual pleasure from both sadism (the tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others) and masochism (the tendency to derive sexual gratification from one’s own pain or humiliation).


Vindictive
Having or showing a strong desire for revenge. — “The way he criticised her was far too vindictive in my view.”


Veracity
To conform to facts; to be accurate.



Download selected sections of The Magic of Reality (Dawkins, 2011):
pp. 12-13, “What is reality? What is magic?”
pp. 32-52, “Who was the first person?”
pp. 118-139, “What is the sun?”
pp. 246-265, “What is a Miracle?”

Humanism

Isms
-ism

I like the sound of “humanism”
[ hu-man-ism | /hjuːmənɪz(ə)m/ ]
but, it ain’t as simple as it sounds …

“Humanism”, an idol of the marketplace?
— Matthew Sharpe (2015)

… is it a hedonistic trait?
… is it a doctrine for the atheist?

Well, according to Wikipedia et al., as a concept, a theoretical construct, an analytical framework, humanism primarily concerns itself with humankind. Concerns include: human needs, human desires, and human experiences.

Jim Al-Khalili — a British academic who describes himself as a humanist — makes some great documentaries and, thanks to Spark, some of these are on the free side of paywalls 🙂 :

Philosophers today often mark the beginning of humanism with the writings of Dante (1265–1321), nonetheless, it was Petrarch and his musings that more accurately formed the foundations. Petrarch (1304–1374) was an Italian poet who applied the ideas and values of ancient Greece and Rome to questions about Christian doctrines and ethics which were all the rage during his own time. Petrarch was among the first to work to unearth long-forgotten ancient Greek and Roman manuscripts. Unlike Dante, he abandoned any concern with religious theology in favour of ancient Roman poetry and philosophy. He also focused upon Rome as the site of a classical civilization, not as the center of Christianity. Finally, Petrarch argued that our highest goals should not be the imitation of Christ, but rather the principles of virtue and truth as described by the ancients.

Following in Petrarch’s footsteps — so to speak — was Erasmus (1466–1536), a.k.a. Erasmus of Rotterdam. Erasmus was a Dutch philosopher and humanist who is widely considered to have been one of the greatest scholars of the northern Renaissance. Amongst humanists he enjoyed the sobriquet “Prince of the Humanists.” Importantly, he prepared new Latin and Greek editions of the Bible’s New Testament, which raised questions that would be influential in relation to the later reformations that took place in Europe. He also wrote On Free Will and — something I like the sound of — In Praise of Folly.

Holbein-erasmus (2)
‘Portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam’
by Hans Holbein the Younger (1523)
Hanging @ The National Gallery, London, England, United Kingdom.

Humanism can also be seen as a contemporary philosophical stance that emphasises the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers scientific evidence-based critical thinking in preference to blind, sheep-like acceptance of dogma and superstition.

Adam Miller’s paintings explore the intersection between mythology, ecology and humanism.

Adam Miller
Adam Miller, at ease in his New York studio
The Fall of Troy
The Fall of Troy
Adam Miller
‘A painting’
By Adam Miller
by Adam Miller
‘A painting’
By Adam Miller


p.s.
-ism is a suffix you’ll see in many English words which — as I’ve said before, like most good things — originates from Greece. In Ancient Greek there’s this suffix: ισμός; it came to us via the Latin suffix: -ismus, and the French one: -isme. In a nutshell, words ending with -ism will often mean: “taking side with someone or something.” -ism words are often used to describe philosophies, artistic and political movements and, behaviour (think: psychology).

Capitalism
— An economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. Characteristics central to capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system and competitive markets.


Communism
— A philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of a communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the ideas of common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.


I perorate

to my sole-mate /

JUST WAR THEORY
Just war theory (Latin: jus bellum justum) is a philosophy (or ‘doctrine’) with a purpose to ensure war is morally justifiable through a series of criteria, all of which must be met for a war to be considered just. The criteria are split into two groups: “right to go to war” (jus ad bellum) and “right conduct in war” (jus in bello). The first concerns the morality of going to war, and the second the moral conduct within war. Just war theory postulates that war, while terrible, is not always the worst option.

ABSURDISM
Absurdism shares some concepts, and a common theoretical template, with existentialism and nihilism. It has its origins in the work of the 19th-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. As a philosophy, absurdism explores the fundamental nature of the absurd — the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life, and the human inability to find any in a purposeless, meaningless or chaotic and irrational universe — and how individuals, once becoming conscious of the absurd, should respond to it. Albert Camus stated that individuals should embrace the absurd condition of human existence.

WESTERN PHILOSOPHY
Western philosophy refers to the philosophical thought and work of the Western world beginning with Greek philosophy of the pre-Socratics such as Thales (c. 624 – c. 546 BC) and Pythagoras (c. 570 – c. 495 BC). Dear reader, as I’ve said many a time. the word philosophy itself originated from the Ancient Greek philosophía (φιλοσοφία), literally, “the love of wisdom” (φιλεῖν phileîn, “to love” and σοφία sophía, “wisdom”).

AESTHETICS
Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty and taste, as well as the philosophy of art. It considers subjective values — at times referred to as judgments of sentiment and taste.

HEDONISM
Hedonism is a school of thought that argues pleasure and suffering are the only components of well-being. Ethical hedonism contends that what we should do depends exclusively on what affects the well-being individuals have. Ethical hedonists would defend either increasing pleasure and reducing suffering for all beings capable of experiencing them, or just reducing suffering in the case of negative consequentialism. Hedonism derives from the Greek word for “delight.”

EPICUREANISM
Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus. It sees the greatest good to be seeking modest, sustainable “pleasure” in the form of a state of tranquility and freedom from fear (ataraxia) and absence of bodily pain (aponia). Although Epicureanism is a form of hedonism insofar as it declares pleasure to be its sole intrinsic goal, its advocacy of a simple life, make it rather distinct from “hedonism” ^ see up dear reader.

RENAISSANCE HUMANISM
Renaissance humanism was a response to what was subsequently labelled the “narrow pedantry” associated with medieval scholasticism. Let’s be clear, it was — wittingly or otherwise — the questioning of why one should put up with a life constrained and controlled by theocratic dogma. In essence is was was a revival in the study of classical antiquity, at first in Italy and then spreading across Western Europe in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.


In Greek mythology Sisyphus (Ancient Greek: Σίσυφος) was the king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth). He was punished for his self-aggrandising craftiness and deceitfulness. His punishment wasbeing forced to roll a huge boulder up a hill only for it to roll down when it nears the top; he was made to repeat this action for eternity. Through the classical influence on modern culture, tasks that are both laborious and futile are therefore described as being “Sisyphean.”

Da_Vinci_Vitruve_Luc_Viatour

Vitruvian Man is Leonardo da Vinci’s own reflection on human proportion and architecture, made clear through words and image. Its purpose is to bring together ideas about art, architecture, human anatomy and symmetry in one distinct and commanding image.

Edward Saïd

& “Orientalism”

“Humanism is the only resistance we have against the inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure human history.”

Read “Orientalism”

Read the full review (& download a PDF copy) here:
BooksOrientalism.


Edward Saïd’s seminal work, Orientalism, has, according to one academic, “redefined our understanding of colonialism and empire.” If you come across the term post-colonial studies whilst u r reading or delving off on an internet-based, whimsical knowledge building journey, soon enough you’ll encounter Saïd. In Orienrltalism, Saïd surveys the history and nature of Western attitudes towards the East, and contends that “orientalism” is a powerful European ideological creation – a way for writers, philosophers and Western political powers (alongside their think tanks) to deal with the ‘otherness’ of eastern culture, customs and beliefs. Drawing on his own experiences as an Arab Palestinian living in the West, Said examines how these ideas can be a reflection of European imperialism and racism. He traces this view through the writings of Homer, Flaubert, Disraeli and Kipling, whose imaginative depictions have greatly contributed to the West’s romantic and exotic picture of the Orient.

Paraphrasing from the book’s introduction, orientalism is the amplification of difference, the presumption of Western superiority, and, “the application of clichéd analytical models for perceiving the Oriental world,” from the perspectives of Western thinkers and scholars. According to Said, orientalism is the key source of the inaccuracy in cultural representations that form the foundations of Western thought and perception of the Eastern world {نحن نعيش ، نموت}. The theoretical framework that orientalism covers has three tenets:

(1)
— an academic tradition or field [see, maybe my posts on: Wilfred Thesiger and Sir Richard Burton];

(2)
— a worldview, representation, and canon / discourse which bases itself upon an, “ontological and epistemological distinction made between “the Orient” and the West;

(3)
— as a powerful political instrument of Western domination over Eastern countries {عاشت فلسطين}.

Praise for the book

“Beautifully patterned and passionately argued.”

New Statesman

“Very exciting … his case is not merely persuasive, but conclusive.”

— John Leonard, New York Times

Them ‘n’ Us

“who knows which is which and who is who”

— Dark Side of the Moon

It’s an ‘Us & Them’ thing (I’m one of the ‘them,’ dear reader). The West may objectify us…

But, they do themselves too:

Le Sommeil (Sleep) by Gustave Courbet (1866).
Le Sommeil (Sleep) by Gustave Courbet (1866).

Jupiter in the Guise of Diana, and the Nymph Callisto, by François Boucher (1759).
Jupiter in the Guise of Diana, and the Nymph Callisto, by François Boucher (1759).
Et nous aussi nous serons meres, by Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1794).
Et nous aussi nous serons meres; car……!, by Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1794).


p.s.

Epistemology
Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that focuses on ‘knowledge.’ It is the study of the nature of knowledge, justification, and the rationality of belief. It relates to the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion.


Humanism
[1]  A rationalist outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.   [2]  A Renaissance cultural movement which turned away from medieval scholasticism and revived interest in ancient Greek and Roman thought.   [3]  (among some contemporary writers) A system of thought criticised as being centred on the notion of the rational, autonomous self and ignoring the conditioned nature of the individual.
— From Latin “homo” – a person, “humanitas” – human nature.


Ontology
[1]  Ontology is the branch of philosophy that focuses on ‘the nature of being.’ It focuses on concepts that directly relate to being (in particular: becoming, existence and, reality.)   [2]  A way of showing the relations between the concepts and categories in a subject area or field of study.


Orientalism
[1]  Style, artefacts, or traits considered characteristic of the peoples and cultures of Asia.   [2]  The representation of Asia in a stereotyped way that is regarded as embodying a colonialist attitude.   [3]  “Orientalism,” as defined by Edward Said, is “the Western attitude that views Eastern societies as exotic, primitive, and inferior. Basically, an Orientalist mindset centers the Western (European/American) world and views the Eastern world as ‘the Other.'”

Remembering you

What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.

— Aristotle
PeoplePhilosophers ❱❱ Aristotle.

Like a rainbow
❝ Like a rainbow, you come and go❞

The coming has currently ceased; at an unknown point in a bitter Arctic winter, I wonder whether I shall ever see the treasure trove’s golden glow again.

Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.

— Aristotle

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Ancient Greek philosopher and scientist. Aristotle as a young man in his study. Artist's reconstruction: wood engraving c. 1886
Let’s have a think my dear sweetheart.

The generic Y.O.L.O. became our W.O.L.O. did it not dearest Jay?