Monday, September 07, 2015

Political Bias in Philosophy

Grief, when it comes, is nothing like we expect it to be ... “Sometimes I’m sad and I don’t know why. It’s just a cloud that comes along and covers me up.”
~ “One must be something in order to do something.” Turning tragedy into a source of creativity, or why art doesn’t have to be street art to be politically subversive. Clouds Above the Coldest River - Everything is Personal ...

It's been said that the novelist is the historian of the present and the historian the novelist of the past. Consider how Edward Gibbon aligned scholarship with art ...

Les Murray, the amazing antipodean poet, made for Australian tourism a television commercial. Murray recites lines from his poem “The Dream of Wearing Shorts Forever”: “Spirituality with pockets!”

The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips

 Reports on the development of a wellbeing index for the City of Santa Monica and how the data collected will be used to inform service design.
How Santa Monica became the first city to measure its residents' wellbeing

Czech illustrator Miroslav Šašek is best-known for his fantastic and timeless This Is… series of vibrant vintage travel books, designed for children but beloved by adults as well, which he produced between 1950 and 1970.  All of Šašek’s illustrated books are an absolute treat, but if you haven’t laid eyes and hands on the glorious This Is New York (1960), you are missing out on something particularly magical and exquisite.

“A sense of security, of well-being, of summer warmth pervades my memory. That robust reality makes a ghost of the present. The mirror brims with brightness; a bumblebee has entered the room and bumps against the ceiling. Everything is as it should be, nothing will ever change, nobody will ever die.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory

Philosophers may be lovers of truth, but that doesn’t mean they are exempt from the cognitive biases that bedevil humans generally. Given that philosophers often have strongly-held political opinions, it’s worth asking: To what extent are their opinions conveyed in their academic writings? If political bias is present, then how does it influence the discipline? To the best of my knowledge, there has been no organized attempt by philosophers to address these questions, let alone attempt to study them scientifically. I’m here to make the case that the discipline would benefit from this kind of investigation and to suggest, in general terms, how it might be undertaken.
Political Bias in Philosophy

The Australasian Association of Philosophy (AAP) has announced that they are starting a new journal, Australasian Philosophical Review, to be launched in March, 2017. The journal will be adopting a version of an interesting format (similar to that of Ethics, Policy, & Environment):
Each issue of the *Australasian Philosophical Review* will consist of a curatorial introduction, a target article, a set of invited commentaries on the target article, a set of open commentaries on the target article, and a response to the invited and open commentaries.
New Journal: Australasian Philosophical Review

In the summer of 2012, Malchkeon and MEdia Dragon not only visited philosophers in Brno, but Melnik and many other places ;-)

In the summer of 2012, I traveled to Brno, in the Czech Republic, to visit the monastery of Gregor Mendel. I knew the barest details of Mendel’s life — enough to generate an anatomical sketch but not much more. Originally from a farming family in Moravia, he had joined the Augustinian monastery in Brno in the 1830s. In 1864, working with peas in the garden of his monastery, he stumbled on arguably the most seminal discovery of modern biology: that hereditary information is transmitted from one generation to the next in the form of discrete particles of information — “genes.”
Melnik Philosophers MMXII Jakub and Terezka
“One must be something in order to do something.”

In the Middle of the Town Square and above the Melnik and it Labe River MMXII
A good plaza starts at the street corner. If it’s a busy corner, it has a brisk social life of its own. People will not just be waiting there for the light to change. Some will be fixed in conversation; others in some phase of a prolonged goodbye. If there’s a vendor at the corner, people will cluster around him, and there will be considerable two-way traffic back and forth between plaza and corner.
Melnik Family Gathering (J and P) MMXXII

The area where the street and plaza or open space meet is key to success or failure. Ideally, the transition should be such that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. New York’s Paley Park is one of the best examples. The sidewalk in front is an integral part of the park. An arborlike foliage of trees extends over the sidewalk. There are urns of flowers and the curb and, on either side of the steps, curved sitting ledges. In this foyer you can usually find somebody waiting for someone else — it is a convenient rendezvous point — people sitting on the ledges, and, in the middle of the entrance, several people in conversation.
Lobkovice Neratovice in laws at the Electrical Substation on River Labe MMXII

What a mischievous chimney sweep has to do with tricking Hitler out of power ....
To those of us who grew up in Eastern Europe, Czech puppet maker, illustrator, and animator Jirí Trnka (1912-1969) is best-known for his illustrations of the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm (recently included in Taschen’s epic volume collecting the best illustrations from 130 years of the Brothers Grimm).

From the Adolf Hoffmeister (1902-1973) book’s flap:
Many books have been written by refugees, and all have ground their axe of bitter tragedy almost to the exclusion of everything else; but not so with Hoffmeister. Here is the only one of them whose native fund of humor is still so great that he must take a laughing-stock of tragedy. ‘Laugh, clown, laugh,’ both pen and pencil insist. Yet at no single moment does Hoffmeister lose sight of the final tragedy of the uprooted — for he too has made the hopeless march. But he also made this book one of the most permanent and perfect indictments, both in word and in picture, of all those who have contributed to the creation and the torture of the Unwilling Tourist.”

“That is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.”

On August 25, 1944, the Liberation of Paris took place after a seven-day coup, in which Hemingway himself participated. “JOY. JOY. JOY. JOY. JOY. JOY. JOY. JOY. JOY.” Anaïs Nin wrote in her diary that day.

The history of recorded thought it strewn with evidence that happiness lives in the most ordinary of moments. And yet no matter how universal a human aspiration it may be, articulating happiness in those rare moments when it is perfectly attained remains an elusive art. For Albert Camus, it was a moral obligation; for Mary Oliver, a kind of seizure; for Kurt Vonnegut, a sense of enoughness. But nowhere have I encountered an account of happiness more soulful and deeply alive than in a passage from Willa Cather’s first masterwork, the 1918 novel My Ántonia.

 Complement with Cather’s moving letter to her brother about keeping one’s decency through difficult times and her only surviving letter to her partner, Edith Lewis, then revisit Gaston Bachelard on reverie and happiness.

Complement Conversations of Goethe with Goethe’s beautiful cloud poems and André Gide on the great poet’s paradoxical model of creativity, then revisit other noteworthy conversations with creative geniuses: Jorge Luis Borges, Susan Sontag, Pablo Picasso, Robert Graves, and Agnes Martin.

  1. A rather breath-stopping Michael Rosen’s Sad Book - Oliver Jeffers’s The Heart and the Bottle and the Japanese masterpiece Little Tree,  revisit Joan Didion on grief.