What we See – What we sometimes think – and What we have to learn

A Dedication to my Students, Around the World

The first impression on one of the the websites of my previous position was yesterday that of the

in its own way a very pleasing tune, matching the mood of the nicety of the previous Friday – for me much more than a beautiful autumn day

A day proving  the enjoyable lightness of being …

I scrolled down the site, saw the old photo showing me during the Shanghai Forum and was getting a bit curious, started the decipher …, wearisome …, to find out that all this is about the media centre and the ‘hyper-modern way of the networked world’ – where the global and the village come together …, perhaps not bad at all, if handled with care. Perhaps this is more important: the way to control the handling, not the instruments …

It surely means not least to be there for students – real, not virtual, and respecting …, no, accepting that we as teachers and as students have more in common than there are differences – where differences and arrogance, where delay and ‘servant-attitudes’ prevail, we have lost already our ingenuity.


Responsibility versus Success?

“All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life has sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold
Had you been as wise as bold,
Your in limbs, in judgment old,
Your answer had not been in’scroll’d
Fare you well: your suit is cold.’ Cold, indeed, and labour lost: Then, farewell, heat and welcome, frost!”

― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Responsibility and Success, at times and in some cases may stand in contradiction, at least tension to each other … – while the cat is chasing its own tale, not being sure if it is dead or alive.
… It is said of medical doctors that they cannot perform well unless they overcome a certain kind of empathy – some interventions cause instant pain, providing relief in the longer run. Is that the same with doctors in economics and even social science in general?
In any case the question to be asked is more specific as empathy as such is a rather empty and shallow notion as long as it is not specified. And specifying means here as in most of the cases to ask the simple question for which in particular Marcus Tullius Cicero was getting famous:
Cui Bono – for whose benefit?
Reading the other day an interview, made with a former …, shall I still say colleague?, brought this question back to me. I do not want to question the interviewees qualification, have no doubts that he is committed – but that may make things even worse.
If finance and stock analysis is such an advanced discipline, I feel obliged to ask why in 2007 a crisis manifested, actually already visible for some time for attentive observers? And it had been a crisis in particular around finance and stock markets.
I also feel obliged to wonder how it is possible to elevate a tiny fraction of the economy, an actual tool of the entire socio-economic processes, making it a major?
Sure, I agree with the emphasis of students responsibility – but it is not about them entering life – students are surely already living and perhaps we, as teachers, should think more about keeping them alive, not killing these lives by subordinating them under the rules of the ‘Lehmans of this world’.
Reading, as said to students
You are not far away from productively enter society and the real world. For that, you  will need to be as ready as possible to become accomplished and successful professionals.
shows in my reading a bit of disrespect – at least as student, I and many of my generation, would surely not have accepted such suggestion – though what is presented in the interview is surely view on young people and on life reflecting very much an negative approach to academic work: first work and then think about what you are doing. First act, and then reflect on the issues of responsibility – and even more: you may come to the conclusion that you don’t have to. There is surely a complex issue at stake – unfortunately very positive experience of the Polytechnic Secondary School education in part of Germany, finding roots in Henry Holmes Belfield’s foundation of the Chicago Manual Training School [founded in 1883] are surely more valuable than orienting on professional skills training, without sound academic foundation.
Yes, it is indeed time to take on responsibility …. – I returned to Europe – the interviewee once talked about one of my ‘homelands’, namely Italy. At least there he was right, stating that the country is in a mess. But he also celebrated another of my ‘homelands’ Germany and the U.K. suggesting that their success was very much due to austerity measures … – well, there is a point in it: the relative wealth of both is founded in austerity which can be taken as externalisation of cost and privatisation of gain: social inequality in Germany is increasing; an increasing number of people, though in full-time employment, do not earn enough money to make a living; after a full working life, the old age pension is mot secure; the health system is deteriorating, although the private contributions are extremely high. the UK took another way: exiting the EU, hoping to be thus in a position to avoid any obligation under the gelding ’solidarity’ – Indeed, Cui Bono as in both countries the rich are getting richer and more infueotnail! Being in Europe now – a bit of a tour de force through Italy, Germany, France, The Netherlands it is very visible what it means … – and there are too many facets that would need to be highlighted.

I take a short passage, from the end of an article I am currently finalising [‘Plattformökonomie – flexi, ein Schritt vorwärts oder zwei Schritte zurück?’] … Sorry, it is I German language ….***

Ein Eindruck vom mehrfachen Druck

Ein Eindruck sei hier am Schluss gegeben – dies meint auch: eine eindrückliche Verdeutlichung des Gesamtzusammenhanges. Es handelt sich um ein persönliche Erfahrung des Autors – gemacht im August 2017: Ziel des Fußweges war die mehr oder weniger zentrale Geschäftsstelle einer Krankenkasse in einer größeren deutschen Stadt. Der Weg führte an den verschiedenen Geschäften der Ketten vorbei: einschließlich etwa Esprit,[1] TK, Starbucks, Karstadt, H&M, s.Oliver,[2] Victorinox, Subway, Zara, Primark, Nespresso, Manufactum, O2 – auch der ‚discounter’ Lidl, alle nun auch in den Zentren mehr oder weniger reicher Städte Deutschlands zu finden.

Vor dem discounter kniet ein Bettler, im danebenliegenden Kaffee wird der Verkäufer der Straßenzeitung von der am Tresen stehenden Verkäuferin vertrieben, in der Geschäftsstelle der Krankenkasse wird die Summe des Versicherungsbetrages genannt – es handelt sich um mehr als 16% des Einkommens. Im Falle der Einkommenslosigkeit sind es immer noch um knapp 180 €. – Glücklich, wer da noch beim discounter kaufen kann oder gar auf andere Weise den Wert der eigenen Ware Arbeitskraft senken kann, etwa durch die Inanspruchnahme des Foodora- oder Uber-Dienstes, möglicherweise bei einem Urlaubsaufenthalt, erschwinglich durch den solo-Unternehmer, der als Pilot arbeitet und die Airbnb-reduzierten Unterkunftskosten – die letzte Warnung: spätestens wenn der Trevi-Brunnen oder Ähnliches zum Verkauf angeboten wird,[3] sollte man sich fragen, ob die Grenzen nicht wirklich überschritten sind. – Déjà vu, das letzte Geschäft, welches ich nun auf dem Rückweg sehe – wohl Zufall, ebenso Zufall, wie die aufschimmernde Erinnerung an einen Platz in Rom, den ich vor einigen Jahren überquerte – selbst im Zentrum des katholischen Wohlgefallens ist bekannt, dass Wohlfahrt in der Konkurrenzgesellschaft Grenzen hat.

But I may submit something else to the discussion here – the short story written by L.N. Tolstoy: Master and Man – there is a no need to buy into the religious part of it. Many aspects are making if a good read – the main story line, and the little ramifications.
Reading the short story the light of finance, there is one crucial sentence, and should not be forgotten when looking at the tool of finance – and applying tools without knowing sufficiently about the entire context:
Vasili Andreevich stopped, stooped down and looked carefully. It was a horse-track only partially covered with snow, and could be none but his own horse’s hoofprints. He had evidently gone round in a small circle. ‘I shall perish like that!’ he thought, and not to give way to his terror he urged on the horse still more, peering into the snowy darkness in which he saw only flitting and fitful points of light.
Indeed, limited perspectives don’t allow much – there is always good reason to take wider perspectives on studying, responsibility and life.
*** Too lazy, and not trusting google-translation, I still dared – the result is reasonable, here inserted without changes made.
An impression of multiple pressures An impression should be given here – this also means: an impressive clarification of the overall context. It is a personal experience of the author – made in August 2017: the goal of the footpath was the more or less central office of a health insurance in a larger German city. The route took us past the various shops of the chains: including Esprit, TK, Starbucks, Karstadt, H & M, s.Oliver, Victorinox, Subway, Zara, Primark, Nespresso, Manufactum, O2 Also in the centers of more or less rich cities of Germany.   In front of the discounter, a beggar kneels, in the coffee next to it, the seller of the road is expelled by the saleswoman standing at the counter, in the office of the health insurance the sum of the insurance amount is called – it is more than 16% of the income. In the case of loss of income, it is still around € 180. – Happy, who can still buy at the discounter or in some other way reduce the value of the own goods labor, for example through the consumption of the food or over-service, possibly for a holiday stay, affordable by the solo entrepreneur, who as Pilot works and the Airbnb reduced accommodation costs – the last warning: at the latest when the Trevi well or the like is offered for sale, one should ask whether the limits are not really exceeded. – Déjà vu, the last business I see on the way back – coincidence, just as coincidentally, as the glimmering memory of a place in Rome, which I crossed a few years ago – even in the center of the Catholic prosperity is well-known that welfare In the competition borders.

[1]            Ja, es ist ein bemerkenswerter Geist, der da über allem schwebt. Und wie Namen, Images und Design eine immer prägendere Rolle spielt, was unter anderem durch Halbbildung ermöglicht wird.

Yes, it is a remarkable spirit that floats above everything. And how names, images and design play an ever more prominent role, which is made possible, among other things, by semi-education.

[2]            Es fehlt nur das an das S angehängte t um dem Ganzen etwas Heiligkeit zu anzuhängen.

The only thing missing is the t attached to the S to add something holiness to the whole.

[3]            Vom Teilverkauf in der Form von Besichtigungskosten, gig-sightseeing-tours etc. abgesehen.

 From the partial sale in the form of sightseeing, gig-sightseeing-tours etc. apart.

The cat’s tale – the difficulty of academia then and now

It seems to be relatively easy to deal with Schroedinger’s cat – the question is well known:


Schrödinger wanted people to imagine that a cat, poison, a geiger counter, radioactive material, and a hammer were inside of a sealed container. The amount of radioactive material was minuscule enough that it only had a 50/50 shot of being detected over the course of an hour. If the geiger counter detected radiation, the hammer would smash the poison, killing the cat. Until someone opened the container and observed the system, it was impossible to predict if the cat’s outcome. Thus, until the system collapsed into one configuration, the cat would exist in some superposition zombie state of being both alive and dead.[2]

The one way of dealing with it is to open the box in order to see if the cat is alive or not. However, it is a way of dealing with the problem by actually denying it as checking, giving ‘empirical evidence’ in actual fact changes the conditions to such an extent that, what had been the question at the outset is actually redefined: the conditions from which the question emerged are not anymore given.

The other way is to admit that there is no answer and that there cannot be any answer for ever. One could see this as a purely academic issue – though this is probably seen differently by the cat – being eternally in a situation of not knowing if her is dead or alive which must admittedly a hugely unpleasant state of existence. And both ‘easy answers’ prevail when we are looking at academia, in particular universities: researching, studying and teaching. One question may be asked though: what is if we simply look at the tale, not the entire cat but also not something that exists only as chimera?

Some reflections on the development of third level education today can be found here, impressions and reports, resulting from having worked in China for two years at a ‘joint venture’ between a EUropean and a Chinese university, and reflecting more general trends than really anything like ‘this is China’. And also reflecting on a general trend of supposed academic education where one learns not to agree with but to follow rules, where you have to like numbers but yu do nit have to like maths … – at the end where you should end with a major that makes sure that the cat is dead while the mice are dancing a bubble dance, appealingly majoring in accounting without understanding the economy of which it takes account.


[1]            https://i.stack.imgur.com/Of40B.jpg; 27/07/17

[2]            IFLScience – The lighter sight of science: Schrödinger’s Cat: Explained; http://www.iflscience.com/physics/schrödinger’s-cat-explained/; 27/07/17


[to the recording]

[see also here for some reflections on academic work]

Peter Herrmann教授,班戈学院金融学专业教师


2015年春季,俄罗斯普列汉诺夫经济大学(Plekhanov Rusian University of Economics)客座教授

2012年起 匈牙利布达佩斯考文纽斯大学(Corvinus Univesity经济学院访问学者

Peter Herrmann教授曾在世界多个国家任教,包括俄罗斯、匈牙利、德国等,主要研究领域为宏观经济学,微观经济学,政治与社会学。

读万卷书,行万里路。Peter Herrmann教授给我的第一印象是,一个高挑的学者,脖子上随性地搭着一条意大利风格的围巾,手里握着一把雨伞,一举一动都让我觉得有一种“大师”的风范。

















Herrmann教授分享了一个他对共享的认识。他向我们介绍在国外有一个网站,可以联系到其他国家的人来share accommodation,当你外出旅行不需要住在家里的时候。这是他对“共享”的认识。







… no waiting anymore …

finally the short holidays are over, back to the students and the seminars, the really exciting side of teaching … so no waiting anymore, not even for Godot

Vien dietro a me, e lascia dir le genti:
sta come torre ferma, che non crolla
già mai la cima per soffiar di venti …
Dante Alighieri:
and there on the Purgatorio, Canto V

mind snatchers

Back home now, taking up teaching again – and with this the “major challenge” we face – nolens volens

E.P. Thompson wrote in an article in 1970:

Collectively, all of us – all we liberal academics – were struck with a paralysis of will as the system not only grew round us, but built us into its own body-walls. Once inside there it looked as if we were running our bit of the show: but the show itself was being directed towards other ends.

Andrew McGettigan, also quoting this, comes in his review article in Radical Philosophy (186 – July/August 2014) to the conclusion that the really important thing about the book Warwick University Ltd. is the investigative journalism. The importance of such investigative journalism cannot be denied.
And I am right now again made aware of it: there had been the change, now the business school teaching economics with reference to the CORE-programme – I commented earlier on it, saying that there would be some progress at least. During the last days I learned that even this is a questionable assessment, reading in mails:
… we have to bear in mind when looking at the CORE information, that we are teaching economics to u/g students in a Business School and so interprete the information accordingly, although I do however understand that students might be interested these other areas. …
… As you state, the e-book is substantial and so we are clearly not covering all aspects in detail but the relevant staff are deciding which aspects of each unit to focus on. You can reasonably assume that we have discussed all of the “Key Points” listed at the end of each unit. …
 Looking then at other documents, I see exactly those walls, replicated and known …, and not touched.
With all the complains, however, we should never forget that there may be a mechanism here name “distraction by attraction”: Being carried away by the presentation of “simple facts”, scandalisation, and also the play with abstract ideas and models lets us easily forget the actual core of any academic work:
This surely goes beyond (and deeper than) descriptions and statistical meticulousness and the learning of formulas. Indeed, academics should refrain from moving on the stages, “cutting things into pieces”, describing facts like playing roles. But mind:

That’s enough words for the moment,
Now let me see some action!

While you’re handing out the compliments,
You should also make things happen.
Why talk so much of inspiration?
Delay won’t make it flow, you see.

taking up the “major challenge” we face – nolens volens. And the worse answer is:ignoring it, turning head and mind to business as usual, business in capital letters…

The no-problem-society I – Beautification of teaching, administrative nonsense

The superior Man is aware of Righteousness, the inferior man is aware of advantage.

Of course, working with slides and even pleasing the eyes as part of it, has some benefit while lecturing. Not least in the context of courses and presentations in a ‘foreign language’. It may be beneficial for lectures, and it surely is beneficial in the eyes of students. And of course, this way it is possible to make use of some special ‘brain features’: some visual effects make memorizing easier.

And of course, there is nothing wrong with nicely presented slides, simply fro the sake of beauty as value in itself or possibly as matter of entertainment. And as so often there is a but. Put forward as question: Even if we agree that it had been an ongoing dream of humankind to

liberate mankind from its oldest and most natural burden, the burden of laboring and the bondage to necessity’[1]

– as Hannah Arendt expressed it – the fact remains that the necessity is not defined by the unbearable lightness of being, by the beauty of the past but by the fact – taking it from Kierkegaard that

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

Doesn’t this also mean we should recover the pleasure and excitement of learning, of comprehending? I remember having observed together with my daughter for a long time, squatting on my haunches, a snail: slow movements, nothing ‘eye catching’ – to be honest, I was a bit annoyed when she first asked to stay and watch. Still, it was ‘worthwhile’, exploring the slow way. There is, of course, a special reason for mentioning it, a reflection that came up, getting manifest during the last days and weeks. I started to think of it in terms of

the no-problem-society.

It is so often that I hear this term: transporting stuff and storing it in some new place, rescheduling teaching hours, internet-blackboard services not working, transferring money and being confronted with strange fees, charged on the European single market … and then of course, a major financial crash and economic meltdown. Sure, the latter finally had been recognised as a serious problem, after ignoring early warnings with the comment

‘No problem’.

Too late, some still managed and made profit even from the problems others faced, some ender all (their own) problems, committing suicide. – No problem, right? As much as all the small incidences are

‘No problem’ …

Behind all this is the increasingly virulent statement of

No problem.

Actually something else is meant: if difficulties arise we deal with them as problem, not allowing to see the problematique, the fact that many singular issues are actually part of a much wider setting with structural and processual deficits, the core issue being the loss of the ability to act socially, even: to act in terms of making any positive social contribution.[2] And it is not possible to wrap them nicely up and maintain the complex connection: in the Netherlands they spend now huge amounts of money for some minor changes in the treatment of psychiatric patients, without considering the underlying causes that brings people into the situation: that makes psychiatric treatment necessary and makes it for a while even ‘efficient’ when it is done this way (I know, we discussed this for instance in connection with the lege Basagli, see also here).

Seems to be far fetched? But is it really: Consider you are studying and there is a change of the schedule. One day before the lecture newly scheduled time, you learn that the next day you have to turn up to a lecture. Effects on motivation? Effects on success of learning? … Of course, it is difficult to follow lectures on a new topic, take up the challenges to look in a different way at reality. But to which extent does it really help to play problems down, referring first to the ‘we always did it this way’? The first impression is always a lasting one. And should the first impression then be about problem-solving by playing them down?

– But don’t blame the students! Allow them to have and talk about problems.

About their own problems, the problem they have and they have with us – different toothless problems we create for them. Of course I know and appreciate the difficulty that occurs when being confronted with writing, listing to and presenting something new, something unknown: and personally I usually do not want to start again and again with what people should and could know, trying to develop things further. And I know and appreciate that it is easy to challenge people – and seeing that some of them are indeed over-challenged. Then, however, making things clearer so that everybody understands may not be the solution – it reduces the suggested solution on what is immediately possible – here an now, not allowing to think about the there and tomorrow. Anyway, many people still do not do anything with the recipes, handy to solve a problem, but not allowing moving easily beyond. It easily ends in the attitude:

No problem

Allowing us to move on, working on some patchwork answers:

  • chasing students to the next-day seminar, where they can enjoy the latest slide beauties
  • making up some administrative rules that allow to drawer everything (well, I mean with this: put everything into its own drawer) from where we can push and pull it around according to immediate ‘needs’
  • to find interim storage space, fading out that life is as such a matter of interim being
  • learning for the next-day’s seminar instead of learning for the future
  • colleagues plagiarising, and not really heard when talking about it with other colleagues
  • seeing articles that are obviously written on the basis of the material easily available AND that is not causing difficulties in pursuing the own ‘argument’ – ‘making things fit’
  • laving students alone, not giving the information, the review of exams with which they can see there strength and weakness

All his and much more … it is

No Problem

we hear. This no-problem-society emerges as the

Visibility of Nothingness

celebrating the form, celebrating the external beauty of smoothness instead of looking at the eternal beauty of contradictoriness and its dialectical overcoming in the Heraclitian river which is a matter of permanent  challenge and thus change …

Many are walking away, nodding about the need to radically rethink issues and … the reference to the well known ‘But we always did it this way’ and cannot change things easily. Finally we have to accept that there is

No problem

Always offering the perfect solution. We are easily trotting away like donkeys.

Over- and under-challenge is somewhat a catch 22-situation which is a serious problem. Not least as we are indeed educating people within institutions that offer mass-education, are setting up administrations that are part of a hegemonic system that controls masses of people – finally we all have to survive.

Slow reading does not fit into such educational setting (though many students love it when they are allowed as it challenges them to think and to talk about themselves); complains about administrational issues does not fit into the framework and so they are met with ‘Thanks … for your good suggestion’ and presumably a fist in the pocket and the attitude of ignoring – ‘Yes, sure, I will cone back to you ..?’ The attitude of ignoring? But of course not, things that do not exist cannot be ignored (though the fish complained while suffocating, lacking water). Surely Kierkegaard may come to mind again, having stated, that

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.

And this is reflecting the increasing amount of streamlined language, presented on beautified slides, offering food for thought that is already digested …, not ready to enter contest and contestation, not allowing to recognise that the student who does not walk half of the way by him/herself did not learn anything – Socrates said something like this, in a way similar to the words of Confucius, contending

I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand

Hannah Arendt comes to mind again – her reflections are as follows:

Wherever the relevance of speech is at stake, matters become political by definition, for speech is what makes man a political being. If we would follow the advice, so frequently urged upon us, to adjust our cultural attitudes to the present status of scientific achievement, we would in all earnest adopt a way of life in which speech is no longer meaningful. For the sciences today have been forced to adopt a ‘language’ of mathematical symbols which, though it was originally meant only as an abbreviation for spoken statements, now contains statements that in no way can be translated back into speech.

What once became known as Potemkin village, presents itself today as designer market for people who do not have any problems. Finally there are always computers and robots that can help – or should I say: who can help? Finally we are now discussing in law the prospects for the marriage and divorce law for cross-marriages between human and robot …

… but let’s wait and see …, and continue on this later … for time we acknowledge

Jezelf een vraag stellen, daarmee begint verzet. En dan die vraag aan een ander stellen. (Asking yourself a question, that is how resistance begins. And then ask that very same question someone else.)
[Remco Campert]


[1]            Ahrendt. The Human Condition; Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1958: 4

[2]            “Social contributions” – we hardly understand the meaning anymore – we cannot really grasp that they are going beyond ‘doing good’ for individuals that face ‘social problems’