About the real realities of the presence … II


[By Phil Squattrito – Flickr: Undercarriage, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17586908https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridge#/media/File:Tridge_Undercarriage.jpg%5D

What we have today is in effect a dual system, the official one of the “national economies” of states, and the real but largely unofficial one of transnational units and institutions . . . [U]nlike the state with its territory and power, other elements of the ‘nation’ can be and easily are overridden by the globalization of the economy. Ethnicity and language are the two obvious ones. Take away state power and coercive force, and their relative insignificance is clear.

(Hobsbawm, Eric, The Nation and Globalization; in: Constellations, 5_1.1998: 4f.)



Leisure Time

It is Chinese New Year and Spring Festival, Seollal in Korea, where the Olympic Games may be part of what they claim to be: a step to the peaceful unification of two countries, which would be a real and global platinum medal – and it is about celebrating and leisure time. Let us join in this difficult matter.

… unfortunately human nature improves slowly, and in nothing more slowly than in the hard task of learning to use leisure well. In every age, in every nation, and in every rank of society, those who have known how to work well, have been far more numerous than those who have known how to use leisure well. But on the other hand it is only through freedom to use leisure as they will, that people can learn to use leisure well; and no class of manual workers, who are devoid of leisure, can have much self-respect and become full citizens. Some time free from the fatigue of work that tires without educating, is a necessary condition of a high standard of life.



[Marshall, Alfred, 1890: Principles of Economics; MacMillan and Co., London, 1930: 718]

Cages of Gods

The following from Montaigne’s essay may also make us think about academia and the life in what is called academic world:

It happens as with cages: the birds without despair to get in, and those within despair of getting out.
Book III, Ch. 5. Upon some Verses of Virgil
Arts and sciences are not cast in a mould, but are formed and perfected by degrees, by often handling and polishing, as bears leisurely lick their cubs into form.
Book II, Ch. 12. Apology for Raimond Sebond
Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a worm, and yet he will be making gods by dozens.
Book II, Ch. 12. Apology for Raimond Sebond
For the Image:

When did it begin? When did we depart?

When did it begin? When did humankind depart from the path of thinking wisely instead of glamorously? And easily moving on the margin of faked realities!?
Well, apparently ist was not before 1927-28, the year of the
In the book emerging from there:
we read on page 39:
There is no point in endeavouring to force the interpretations of divergent philosophers into a vague agreement. What is important is that the scheme of interpretation here adopted can claim for each of its main positions the express authority of one, or the other, of some supreme master of thought-Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant. But ultimately nothing rests on authority; the final court of appeal is intrinsic reasonableness.
The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradi- tion is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. I do not mean the. systematic scheme of thought which scholars have doubtfully extracted from his writings. I allude to the wealth of general ideas scattered through them. His personal endowments, his wide opportunities for experience at a great period of civilization, his inheritance of an intellectual tradition not yet stiffened by excessive systematization, have made his writings an inexhaustible mine of suggestion.

May be at some stage then some people thought they can write a new body text, leaving the area of footnotes. Seeing posters, advertising a new Amazon Echo, I was getting curious what this is about – and looking it up here, I read
Amazon had been developing Echo devices inside its Lab126 offices in Silicon Valley and Cambridge, Massachusetts since at least 2010 in confirmed reports.
And I am wondering if they don’t have any better ideas about spending their time there …? Maybe reducing rubbish heaps instead of filling them up?
Sure, you may thoughtfully ask if I do not have anything better to do than commenting on it. – Yes, I do, and yes I can do and think other things – from a lovely lunch with friends, making jokes while going for a walk to tackling more profound questions, actually trying to define questions and problems instead of providing solutions to problems we do not have.
Hey, listen Mr Steve Amazon Gates, but that is exactly the point: creating and duplicating text blocks, and pretending they are more than footnotes to Plato. They are not more, they are just a stupid way of distracting reading the original – even if we are told we can make things our own.
And they are ways of distracting from reality, whitewashing as it was called, photoshopping as it is called.
Without distraction, we may then read in Plato’s Republic:
If the entire soul, then, follows without rebellion the part which loves wisdom, the result is that in general each part can carry out its own function—can be just, in other words—and in particular each is able to enjoy pleasures which are its own, the best, and, as far as possible, the truest. … When one of the other parts takes control, there are two results: it fails to discover its own proper pleasure, and it compels the other parts to pursue a pleasure which is not their own, and not true.
It continues:
In which case, I imagine, the tyrant will be furthest removed from true pleasure – how own proper pleasure – while the king will be the least far removed.
  • We have to add: there and then the king, the ideal king, was understood as philosopher.
  • We have to ‘complete’ from today that the market is our contemporary tyrant.
  • – it is surely worthwhile for everybody to read a bit further, to be ore precise to read what had been written before the quoted conclusion had been made.
So, looking at Plato’s teacher, we may have to accept the following:
Standards of beauty are different in different eras, and in Socrates’s time beauty could easily be measured by the standard of the gods, stately, proportionate sculptures of whom had been adorning the Athenian acropolis since about the time Socrates reached the age of thirty. Good looks and proper bearing were important to a man’s political prospects, for beauty and goodness were linked in the popular imagination. The extant sources agree that Socrates was profoundly ugly, resembling a satyr more than a man—and resembling not at all the statues that turned up later in ancient times and now grace Internet sites and the covers of books. He had wide-set, bulging eyes that darted sideways and enabled him, like a crab, to see not only what was straight ahead, but what was beside him as well; a flat, upturned nose with flaring nostrils; and large fleshy lips like an ass. Socrates let his hair grow long, Spartan-style (even while Athens and Sparta were at war), and went about barefoot and unwashed, carrying a stick and looking arrogant. He didn’t change his clothes but efficiently wore in the daytime what he covered himself with at night. Something was peculiar about his gait as well, sometimes described as a swagger so intimidating that enemy soldiers kept their distance. He was impervious to the effects of alcohol and cold, but this made him an object of suspicion to his fellow soldiers on campaign.
We still speak of them, admiring, criticising and even with this acknowledging their ongoing meaning. We will not know, but may ask: who will really admire, criticise and with this acknowledge Mr Steve, when possibly standing in about 2500 years at some gates that open the way across the amazon.
For my part, I am happy coexist merely as footnote, even as footnote of footnotes – and of course, I am happy when I can help students and scholars a little bit to understand the body texts of humankind and their meaning [for] today.

Elite or Common Sense?

It is, sometimes, difficult to draw a line between elitism and common sense. Especially when the elite is just a pretension, a claim that has no legitimate foundation in reality but is established on the pillars of imagined rules of which the validity is only …, the claim of their legitimacy, presumed to be unquestionable. those are claims of conventional wisdom, of which J.K, Galbraith writes

Because familiarity is such an important test of acceptability, the acceptable ideas have great stability. They are highly predictable. It will be convenient to have a name for the ideas which are esteemed at any time for their acceptability, and it should be a term that emphasizes this predictability. I shall refer to these ideas henceforth as the conventional wisdom.

(Galbraith, J.K., 1958: The Affluent Society; London: Hamish Hamilton:6)

‘Religious rites’ as he calls them a page later.

And they could also be seen as rules or hegemonic setting – we believe in them because …, we believe in them as all believe in them. And they are used to misguide the future generations.

The paradox: the elite turns into an ‘un-elite’, not knowing what they are doing but just doing what they don’t know. some time ago I read in an interview with the conductor Philippe Herreweghe the following lines, making me thinking about a strange reversal of elite and common sense we face in today’s algorithm society.

Ich bin beispielsweise der Ansicht, dass Beethoven seine Musik für eine kleine, hochgradig künstlerisch veranlagte Elite komponierte – diese Zuhörerschaft war mit seinen Werken vertraut. Fast alle spielten selbst ein Instrument, häufig auch im kammermusikalischen Rahmen, oder gehörten sogar einem Orchester an, welches diese neue Musik interpretierte. Und genau aus diesem Grund konnten seine Zeitgenossen den etwas später so genannten »armen Beethoven, der von niemandem verstanden wurde«, durchaus sehr gut verstehen. Das Niveau seiner Zuhörerschaft war schlicht und einfach um ein Vielfaches höher, als wir es heutzutage erleben. Heute kann es vorkommen, dass manche Zuschauer begeistert ein Tennismatch verfolgen, ohne dabei die Spielregeln genau zu kennen …


For example, I think that Beethoven composed his music for a small, highly artistic elite – this audience was familiar with his works. Almost all played an instrument, often in a chamber music setting, or even belonged to an orchestra, which interpreted this new music. And precisely for this reason, his contemporaries could quite well understand the so-called “poor Beethoven, which was later understood by nobody.” The level of his or her audience was simply a lot higher than we do today. Today it can happen that some spectators enthusiastically follow a Tennismatch without knowing the rules of the game …

(Ich habe mir meine Neugierde bewahrt. Philippe Herreweghe im Gespräch mit Louvres Langevoort/
I kept my curiosity. Philippe Herreweghe in conversation with Louvres Langevoort; in:
Kölner Philharmonie; Das Magazin. Nr. 3; Jul/Aug 2017: page 19; 18/08/2017)
Time to get back then to another common sense – that of asking what the rules are about, demanding to understand and not simply accepting acceptability.

Vie veritable

I was actually looking for the reference to this quote:

“Our life is part folly, part wisdom. Whoever writes about it only reverently and according to the rules leaves out more than half of it.”

A sentence I found in a review of Bakewell’s Montaigne-review. and I failed. But I found huge pleasure in reading Montaigne then, and just a bit for you to look for.

For instance looking at the question of true life – pouvons-nous encore le trouver?

Numbers and what cannot be counted // nombres – et ce qui ne peut être compté

Quel que soit le moment où votre vie s’achève, elle y est toute entière. La valeur de la vie ne réside pas dans la durée, mais dans ce qu’on en a fait. Tel a vécu longtemps qui a pour- tant peu vécu. Accordez-lui toute votre attention pendant qu’elle est en vous. Que vous ayez assez vécu dépend de votre volonté, pas du nombre de vos années. Pensiez-vous ne jamais arriver là où vous alliez sans cesse ? Il n’est pas de chemin qui n’ait d’issue. Et si la compagnie peut vous aider, le monde ne va-t-il pas du même train que vous ?

Montaigne: Essais. Livre Premiere: 116

Feet of Clay

This morning, while walking as I usually do, I have been accompanied by Fontane’s ‘A Summer in London’, the audio-book-version, to my knowledge unfortunately not translated.

In the chapter

Very, le Pays und die »Tönernen Füße« Englands

it says:

At all times, trade made large, but also small: large towards the others, but small in the heart. It buys courage; courage is not its inherent nature – and this is the danger. … Trade has never higher ambitions than its own being and its ultimate condition is – calmness. Hoping for profit and the City of London joins any dynasty.[1]

This morning I arrive in the office, going through the news, one of the headlines:

Dove Slammed for Racist Ad Featuring Black Woman Turning White

Trade wars and slavery …, of course they have new faces …


Well, to be added: The Britain Fontane was talking about, exits Europe … one may ask, of course, if Europe didn’t already exit itself.


[1]            Der Handel hat zu allen Zeiten groß gemacht, aber auch klein: groß nach außen hin, aber klein im Herzen. Er kauft den Mut; er hat ihn nicht selbst – und hier liegt die Gefahr. … Der Handel hat nie größte Zwecke als sich selbst, und seine erste Bedingnis ist – die Ruhe. Ein Gewinn in Aussicht gestellt und die City von London geht mit jeder Dynastie.