Mike Vickers' Blog

March 24, 2019

Hannah Arendt – Thinking without a Bannister

Filed under: Europe, Hannah Arendt, Journalism, Politics, Writing — derryvickers @ 9:05 pm

Hannah Arendt Post Truth pioneer – Thinking without a Bannister

New Statesman 22-28 March 2010 by Lyndsey Stonebridge

https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2019/03/hannah-arendt-resurgence-philosophy-relevance

The Article starts with:

“It is true that Arendt loved the public space of politics for the robust clarity it gave to the business of living together. It is also true that she argued for a political republic based on common interest. These are both reasons why we should be reading her today. But her commitment to plurality is not an invitation to nationalism. Arendt wanted politics dragged into the light so that we might see each other for what we are. But that didn’t mean we had to accept what was evidently ruinous to politics itself, merely that we had to acknowledge that what we find most repellent actually exists – and then resist it.

And if there is one thing we have learned over the past two years it is that our political reality is not what we thought it was and still less what we would like it to be. Because the times she lived in were also dark, violent and unpredictable, and because she was smart, diligent and hardworking, Arendt was good at thinking quickly and accurately about the politically and morally unprecedented. She distrusted easy analogies, thought historical precedents were a poor way of grasping the unexpected, and practised instead what she called “thinking without a bannister””

 

A couple more quotes from the Article:

“Even before the full horror of the death camps became clear, Arendt had spotted that the world “found nothing sacred in the abstract nakedness of being human”. It still doesn’t.

This wasn’t just because people had become unempathetic and nasty due to mass propaganda, but was also a consequence of the organisation of the world into nation states. When a person is driven away from one country, she argued, he is expelled from all countries, “which means he is actually expelled from humanity”.”

“It happened again to the Palestinians in 1948. On Israel, Arendt was troubled but again clear-sighted. Like “virtually all other events of the 20th century,” she wrote, “the solution of the Jewish question merely produced a new category of refugees, the Arabs, thereby increasing the number of stateless and rightless by another 700,000 to 800,000 people.””

“The AfD is not wrong to say that power becomes dangerous at the point where there seems to be no public accountability any more. But it is precisely at such moments, Arendt teaches, that we most need to think politically, to resist populism: “When everybody is swept away unthinkingly by what everybody else does and believes in, those who think are drawn out of hiding because… [thinking] becomes a kind of action.””

And the article finishes with

“We cannot guess what she would think of our politics now, and she wouldn’t have respected us for trying. Think for yourself, she would have said. But Arendt left us with an important message: expect and prepare for the worst, but think and act for something better. The impossible is always possible.”

March 6, 2019

Goethe’s Advice

Filed under: Literature, Music, Strindberg, Writing — derryvickers @ 10:47 pm

Further to my blog earlier today

Every day at least to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words” – Goethe

Well this evening it was August Strindberg’s Miss Julie at the Studio Edinburgh (the Studio is a little theatre at the back of the Festival Theater) put on by Perth Theatre.

More than a little song and if possible, a few reasonable words.

Miss Julie is 1.5 hours of hard listening and viewing; very much in the style of Ibsen and Chekhov though much more direct and painful; Miss Julie cuts her throat in the finish. Just three characters; Julie daughter of the big house, Jean, the valet and Christine the kitchen maid, but also the lord of the big house, who is the grey eminence.

You can read more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Julie.

Or if you have time you can see it at the Studio till Saturday 9 March.

Every day at least to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, Music, Personal, Writing — derryvickers @ 3:32 pm

Goethe

In these trying times of Brexit and Austerity, worth a thought each day.

What can I do about it.

Goethe had the right idea

 

March 4, 2019

Stephen Jay Gould – a great loss as a humanist and science writer

Filed under: Journalism, NOMA, Politics, Stephen Jay Gould, World Class, Writing — derryvickers @ 7:29 pm

Cleaning the bookcase out, I came across my collection of Natural History books by Stephen Jay Gould; some 20 in all. The first one I bought was perhaps his first ‘Ever Since Darwin’ at a small book shop in Santa Barbara, a lovely town with glorious Bougainvillea. It was a Sunday and I had a Sunday break from a conference in LA.

So who was Stephen Jay Gould; he died on 22 May 2002

From the obituary in Nature

“Palaeontologist and public face of evolutionary biology

Stephen Jay Gould, the world’s most renowned palaeontologist, died in New York on 20 May [2002]. His death robs the fields of palaeontology and evolution of one of their most provocative thinkers, and millions of readers of an entertaining and astonishingly productive commentator on biology.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/417706a

This describes him to me from his books completely. To me, he was the ultimate Humanist. He believed and publicized Darwin’s evolution and through his books (collections of essays over 20 years) the wonders of evolution are described, not as the progression of evolutary steps to man as the greatest, but as evolution by natural selection at all levels, unlike Dawkins solely through genes and Conway Morris as God directed. He saw evolution as moving forward in jumps, Punctuated Equilibrium, which if I look back in recorded history, is how civilisation has moved forward from Aristotle; he also invented ‘exaptation’, making use of features already there for one purpose to use for something different, he examples birds developed feathers to keep warm before they adapted feathers to fly. He was not popular with his colleagues, who followed Darwin precisely that evolution was gradual over many thousands / millions of years. He had numerous confrontations with Dawkins. He also battled with creationists who pumped out that Whites were superior to Blacks have in bigger brains; Gould successfully refuted this.

But Stephen Jay Gould is dead for almost 18 years and unfortunately, to me, he is gone from the bookshelves, replaced by Dawkins (thought even he is no longer so prevalent).

He was in his lifetime ‘canonised’ by the US Congress as one of America’s living legends.

Unsurprisingly he was not a Christian but he did come forward with NOMA, Non-Overlapping Magisteria

From Wiki
‘Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) is the view that was advocated by Stephen Jay Gould that science and religion each represent different areas of inquiry, fact vs. values, so there is a difference between the “nets”[1] over which they have “a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority,” and the two domains do not overlap.[2]

I personally have difficulty in getting my head round NOMA but never the less it is one way forward in a very difficult area.

Stephen Jay Gould was, for me, a great and erudite writer and a formidable loss to mankind at this time. He will retain a prominent place on my bookshelf,

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