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Archive for the ‘Enlightenment’ Category

Explore the Enlightenment with Ayn Rand Scholars – New Ideal

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Where can we find the wisdom needed to deal with growing cultural strife and political conflict? An upcoming conference of Ayn Rand scholars looks to the Age of Enlightenment for inspiration and solutions. The event, Ayn Rand Conference USALive, will be hosted online November 6 and 7, 2020.

The conference aims to be especially relevant to students, young people and relative newcomers to Objectivism. The online format will make it easy to communicate directly with speakers, via Zooms chat and Q&A modules. And in a nod to the Enlightenment eras drawing rooms full of interesting thinkers, the conference will feature virtual salons hosted by speakers and ARI staff breakout rooms where participants can interact with a speaker of their choice.

Whats more, the first talk will be open to the public, broadcast live on ARIs YouTube and social media channels. The remaining talks, Q&A and social events will be open only to registered conference attendees.

Those familiar with some of the ideas and ideals of the Enlightenment will hear fascinating insights into the strengths and weaknesses of those ideas that Rand identified and addressed in her own writings. Scheduled presentations include talks by experts in Objectivism who regularly speak and write about Rands philosophy and its application to todays big questions:

As a preview of the whole conference, heres a short video by ARIs chief philosophy officer, Onkar Ghate, on the historical importance of Enlightenment ideas:

Register today at this link. Students can inquire about significantly reduced pricing here.

If you value the ideas presented here, please become an ARI Member today.

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Explore the Enlightenment with Ayn Rand Scholars - New Ideal

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October 30th, 2020 at 10:55 pm

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Time’s Monster by Priya Satia review living in the past – The Guardian

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In his celebrated Letter from Birmingham jail, written in 1963 while in prison for having taken part in a banned march against segregation, Martin Luther King Jr describes receiving a letter from a white brother in Texas who had told him that all Christians know that the coloured people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. Such an attitude, King wrote, stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills.

I was reminded of that line as I read Priya Satias Times Monster. For its the same irrational notion about the flow of time against which Satia, professor of international history at Stanford University, argues.

Times Monster is a book about history and empire. Not a straightforward history, but an account of how the discipline of history has itself enabled the process of colonisation, making it ethically thinkable.

Satias story begins with the Enlightenment, when the traditional idea of time as cyclical unwound into a linear vision of history, which came to be seen as something that moves irresistibly forward. History became something that humans made but also that made humans. Humans and history were both seen as possessing agency. This allowed history to exercise the power of moral judgment. Morality was defined in terms of the progress brought about by the unfolding of history. History revealed the institutions and the peoples that had become obsolete. Obsolescence, novelist Amitav Ghosh has observed, is modernitys equivalent of perdition and hellfire. The most potent words of damnation in the modern world, Ghosh has noted, is the malediction of being on the wrong side of history.

The Enlightenments obsession with progress, combined with an unshakable attachment to moral universalism, Satia suggests, helped normalise the violence of imperial conquest. Colonialism came to be seen as morally just, a means of bringing progress to non-European peoples, freeing them from their own barbarism.

Liberal imperialism was inherently contradictory, both demanding and denying freedoms and liberties. So John Stuart Mill, in his classic book On Liberty, could argue that despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement. Those who had not sufficiently progressed along the path of history should not be treated like fully civilised peoples. The historians craft, Satia suggests, proved essential to smoothing over such contradictions, allowing the sheer brutality of the British empire to be glossed over as the collateral damage of necessary progress.

Times Monster is a coruscating and important reworking of the relationship between history, historians and empire. It is also a frustrating account. The thread running through Times Monster is the need to understand the catastrophic consequences of rooting ethical claims in particular historical narratives. Satia castigates historians Thomas Macaulay, James Mill and John Robert Seeley, among others for having acted as handmaidens to imperial power. In the final chapter, though, she worries that historians have in recent decades become sidelined by political leaders and that new kinds of experts economists and political scientists have taken their place, experts who seem even more willing to be bag carriers for the powerful.

Historians who are critical of imperialism must, Satia insists, assert their expertise on policy matters against the monopolistic claims of social scientists, to help shape contemporary foreign policy. Many historians were, she observes, opposed to the Iraq war, but were too far removed from the sources of power to have any influence. She even calls on historians to reprise the Enlightenment project of arriving at (new) judgments of value through history. Todays historians, in other words, should continue the practice of using history as a means of deriving moral norms, but with different norms, a morality that supports the powerless rather than the powerful. Its a demand that might seem obvious, but its also one that cuts against the grain of much of the argument in previous chapters which has condemned the very act of using the lessons of history to craft moral norms.

Satia wants also to ditch a linear view of history and to reconsider history as cyclical, if not aimless. The fatal flaw with Enlightenment-derived notions of history, she argues, is that they place humans rather than biology, geology and astronomy at its centre. In fact, the idea of humans making history, rather than simply being made by history, was one of the great leaps in Enlightenment thinking. The problem was that history also came to be seen as something that automatically progresses, that there was, in Kings words of criticism, something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. This was a vision of history that allowed certain peoples and nations to be damned as backward or obsolete and provided moral justification for colonialism. Yet replacing it with a conception of history as circular, which by definition abjures the possibilities of permanent change, a notion of history that is defined more by biology, geology and astronomy than by human activity, would not, it seems to me, be much of a gain.

Times Monster helps lay bare the discipline of historys collusion in empire. It also reveals, however, perhaps unwittingly, what remains valuable in Enlightenment ideas of history and of humanity.

Times Monster: History, Conscience and Britains Empire by Priya Satia is published by Allen Lane (25). To order a copy go to Delivery charges may apply

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Time's Monster by Priya Satia review living in the past - The Guardian

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October 30th, 2020 at 10:55 pm

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How to Be a Luminary – Torah Insights – Parshah –

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Abraham was the first Jewish luminary. And we can all take a page out of his playbook.

The story of Abrahams life is primarily told in two portions of the Torah, Lech Lecha and Vayera. In the first portion of Abraham's story, Abraham comes across as a deeply spiritual person. The Torah tells how he traveled the land and of the altars he built for Gd in every place that he went. Toward the end of the first portion, Gd introduces a new idea to Abraham. No longer will it suffice for Abraham to be a spiritual person. From now on, Abraham's task will be to connect the spiritual with the physical. Abraham is commanded to circumcise himself, fulfilling Gd's commandment My covenant will be in your flesh. From here on, Abrahams mission is to teach how the spiritual covenant must express itself in the tangible physical world.

The second portion, Vayera, opens with Abraham, on the third day after his circumcision, sitting at the opening of his tent seeking guests. Its an exceedingly hot day, and theres no one in sight, yet Abraham sits there, waiting and hoping to find someone to invite into his home. As the Torah tells us:

Now the Lrd appeared to him in the plains of Mamre, and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent when the day was hot. And he lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, three men were standing beside him, and he saw and he ran toward them from the entrance of the tent, and he prostrated himself to the ground.

The opening phrase is the Lrd appeared to him. As a result of this Divine revelation, Abraham reached a greater level of kindness. Typically, a kind person will express kindness when he or she sees someone in need, or at least someone who can receive the kindness. In this scene, Abraham was sitting at the opening of his tent looking to express kindness even when there was no one in sight who was in need of kindness. Abrahams heart was overflowing with love. For the more Abraham experienced the presence of Gd, the more he transcended himself and sought to connect and share with other people.

The verse continues, and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent when the day was hot. The literal translation of the verse is he was sitting at the entrance of the tent like the heat of the day. Not in the heat of the day, but like the heat of the day. The verse implies that Abraham himself was like the heat of the day. Abraham was like the sun, spreading warmth, love and enlightenment.

Many spiritual seekers seek to escape worldly distractions and seek enlightenment in solitude. The more enlightenment they experience, the more removed they become from the rest of society. But Abraham taught us that the closer one comes to spirituality, holiness and transcendence, the more the person will sit at the opening of the tent, seeking to express kindness even when the need is not immediately present before him or her. The closer one comes to Gd, the more he or she will be like the heat of the day, like the sun, expressing warmth and friendship to all.

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How to Be a Luminary - Torah Insights - Parshah -

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October 30th, 2020 at 10:55 pm

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The politicisation of civilisations and ideologies: Macron, Charlie Hebdo and blasphemy in France – Middle East Monitor

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The reproduction of Charlie Hebdos cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) recently was no surprise. What was frustrating though was French President Emmanuel Macrons open endorsement of them and his claim that Islam is in crisis. He has made orientalist, neo-colonial statements such as, I want to build an Islam in France that is compatible with the Enlightenment.

The first thought that came to my mind when I listened to him was clash of civilisations. A few months ago I had a discussion with a Muslim academic in the US who insisted that we should stop teaching Samuel Huntingtons controversial and reductionist theory to students. Clash of civilisation, she claimed, reinforces the rigid and mythical boundaries of East vs. West, Muslim vs. Christian and Us vs. Them. Her argument, in which I saw some value, was that migration and globalisation has blurred the boundaries between the East and West and that religion and culture cannot be related to a particular civilisation any longer. Islam is found in the West, and the West and its values can be found in those living in the East. Macrons latest speech and support of blasphemy made me realise that maybe it is not so much about the clash but the politicisation of civilisations and their ideologies.

This is not the first time that blasphemous acts have targeted Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) in Europe and elsewhere. A decade ago a Danish newspaper published similar cartoons and outraged Muslims around the world. This is all about freedom of expression, we are told, but if it is apparent to any reasonable person that derogatory remarks or acts against Islam, the Quran or the Prophet will prompt a strong reaction from Muslims, why does the cycle keep repeating? Why do the advocates of free speech light the flame and then express surprise that a fire follows thereafter? Why do they feel the need to offend simply because they can? At this point it seems almost intentional. It has become a means to express dominance through which the superiority of the Western philosophy and beliefs is being asserted upon Muslims. And I say Muslims because it is we who have been singled out for enlightenment by Macron and those like him.

READ: France recalls envoy in Turkey

As a Western-educated academic from and working in the Middle East, I have for long been frustrated by the Eurocentric approaches of political and social theories. They are not only being taught in institutions globally, but also provide the framework for international politics which reinforces power hierarchies and justifies neo-colonialism.

The whole rhetoric of Charlie Hebdo, which was emphasised aggressively by Macron, was framed within the concept of freedom of expression. He claims that this is one of the main values of the French Republic. To be free in France, he said, means to have the freedom to believe or not to believe. But this is inseparable from the freedom of expression. This deification of freedom of speech is actually a politicised myth. If it is as logical and rational in France as Macron claims it to be, then why is denial of the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide banned in France? Or insulting the French flag and national anthem? Freedom of speech in France is not without ideological connotations.

To contextualise my position, Europes history of attacks on the Prophet and Islam predate the concept of free speech itself. It is rooted in the religious, ideological and political history of Medieval Europe and Christianity over a millennium; I do not have the space to explain the details here.

A turning point in modern European history, the so-called Enlightenment, not only established a Eurocentric approach to modernity, rationality and logic, but also further institutionalised the language of hatred against Islam. Enlightenment philosophers like Voltaire and Kant who are hailed as the founders of human rights used offensively vicious language to describe the Prophet. These celebrated intellectuals and their philosophies inform constitutions and political structures in the West and other parts of the world. Enlightenment philosophers established hierarchies in knowledge production. Kant, who glorified moral philosophy to which Macron referred in his speech, was also a racist. Hence, this philosophy of logic, reasoning and human rights is inherently flawed because it is exclusive to European experience. There is no universal here. We have to look at who established these universal concepts. Marx, Burke and Mill, for example, saw colonialism as modernising the backward and viewed the non-Western world as barbaric and savage, and yet their work is taught in academic institutions all over the world even as we also try in theory at least to build more equal and tolerant societies.

Morocco: Hashtag calling for boycott of French products trends on Twitter

My point is that Macron and his ilk are a result of socialisation through structures within which the racist and orientalist ideologies produced by the Enlightenment were politicised and normalised. To find solutions to this hatred and marginalisation of certain religious groups, we need to look at the root cause, which lies within the fundamental philosophy of these states and their structures.

The French presidents anti-Islamic rhetoric is also, inevitably, linked to his re-election campaign strategy. Such a populist approach appeals to the right wing. Having said that, his political motives have manifested in hate speech towards Muslims in general, not just in France: Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world today, claimed Macron, and so he wants to liberate Islam in his country. His neo-orientalist approach builds on the popular nationalist debate on what it means to be a proper French citizen. You dont choose one part of France, he insisted. You choose France The republic will never allow any separatist adventure. He claims repeatedly that he is a proponent of secularism and aims to defend the republic and its values and ensure it respects the promises of equality and emancipation. Through his attempts to fight Muslim separatism in France, he has in fact further politicised religion and, ironically, marginalised Muslims.

France has a long history of colonising Muslim countries in Africa and the Middle East. French colonialism was ruthless as it sought to wipe out indigenous cultures and create replica French citizens. It has never apologised for the thousands of people killed and exploited in this colonial process. Today, enlightened France is, like many other countries in the West, once again trying to assert its hegemony on the Muslim world through ideological rather than physical means or legal sophistry.

READ: Macrons anti-Islam remark against principles of French Revolution, says Brotherhood leader

When Macron went to Lebanon in the wake of the massive explosion that devastated Beirut in August, he was in full European saviour mode; he professed his love for the Lebanese people without acknowledging the damage that French colonialism did to their country. Such double standards also apply to his endorsement of blasphemy when the target is the man held dear by all Muslims around the world as well as their faith. He demands that French Muslims must respect the values of the French Republic but he has no respect for Islam or Muslims. His is the language of domination and the assertion of neo-colonial power.

The issue here is not just the framing of blasphemy within the concept of freedom of speech. It is the hegemony of Eurocentrism and hypocrisy within which selective freedom of speech is promoted. It is the politicisation of the larger ideologies of universal enlightenment, nationalism and secularism. As fascism and populism are on the rise in Europe, such ideological clashes may become more frequent and worse in their impact. Instead of working to combat the real crisis of structural, systematic and ideological racism in France, though, Emmanuel Macron would rather reform Islam.

Anyone offended by the Charlie Hebdo cartoons should be asking what solutions or alternatives we have to these inherently biased political and social ideologies. What exactly are we being asked to boycott, and why? Can a protest boycott of material goods conquer the structural and systematic flaws in international political philosophy? Maybe not, but it will at least draw attention to the latter, and thats as good a place as any to begin this important discussion.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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The politicisation of civilisations and ideologies: Macron, Charlie Hebdo and blasphemy in France - Middle East Monitor

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October 30th, 2020 at 10:55 pm

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Apollo 13: The Dark Side of the Moon review survival and enlightenment – The Guardian

Posted: October 14, 2020 at 6:54 am

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Masters of their craft Michael Salami, Tom Chambers and Christopher Harper as the beleaguered crew

What makes this play by Torben Betts gripping is the thrill of a life-and-death tale told at the pace of a documentary. As the heroic orchestral swells of Sophie Cottons score give way to unsettling electronic pulses, the playwright thrusts us into the cabin of Apollo 13, where three astronauts must abandon their hopes of a moon landing in order to survive.

With the loss of an oxygen tank jeopardising the power, they must use the moons gravitational pull to swing them back to Earth. Even if you know what happens, it makes for a tense ride.

The mood is amplified by directors Alastair Whatley and Charlotte Peters of Original theatre who, with film director Tristan Shepherd, focus tightly on the faces of the desperate crew. The technique saves the actors from having to share the same space, solving the problem of social distancing, but the effect is to draw us intimately towards the action.

You get the impression, though, that Betts is less interested in what is known than what is unknown. The statistics, the ground-control updates and the famous Houston, weve had a problem line are all present, but as the lighting changes from a high-definition lunar glow to brooding shadows on the moons dark side, Betts uses the cover of radio silence to speculate.

He imagines a tussle about the history of US racism between Michael Salamis Fred Haise, cast as an African American, and Tom Chambers as the rightwing Jack Swigert. The argument is not subtle but the playwrights plea that we find our common humanity is timely as we seek perspective on the schisms and isolation of our own world.

Available online.

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Apollo 13: The Dark Side of the Moon review survival and enlightenment - The Guardian

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October 14th, 2020 at 6:54 am

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Does the world still need the West? – Al Jazeera English

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The sun is setting on the Wests time as the self-appointed democracy police of the world.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Donald Trump are seen together during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France on August 25, 2019 [Stefan Rousseau/Pool via Reuters]

For several centuries, the countries of Western Europe and North America, led primarily by the UK and its colonial spawn, the US, have dominated the globe in economic, military and cultural terms. The West has made and remade the world as it saw fit and projected itself as the pinnacle of human achievement. The developed world it has vaingloriously referred to itself as, a model of enlightenment for the rest of underdeveloped humanity to follow. And the world it built was meant to reinforce this hierarchy.

Of course, much of the narrative of enlightenment was little more than myth a convenient fable to cover up the brutal profiteering off the oppression and exploitation of other human beings and destruction of their societies. Still, sitting on the porch of its mansion watching over its global plantation, having grown fat off the wealth it had taken from others, the West came to believe its own rhetoric of racial and moral superiority.

However, the last four years have done much to draw back the curtain on the hypocrisy that has always lain under the pontification. Countries that just a few years ago were proclaiming the end of history and their triumph as beacons of democracy, liberalism and capitalism nations that traversed the globe preaching the gospel of good governance, accountability and transparent government to the less fortunate denizens of corrupt, third-world banana republics have themselves succumbed to the lure of authoritarian, right-wing populism. Gone are the heady days when they sought to enforce democracy through manufactured wars and devastating economic sanctions. Today, democracy seems just as endangered in the US (and in the UK) as it ever was in Kenya and elsewhere.

This has of course elicited great whoops of schadenfreude around the world. Throughout the current US presidential election campaign, and especially in the recent weeks following the tragicomic debate between President Donald Trump and his challenger, Joe Biden, the world has been given a front-row view of the unravelling of a narcissistic, if somewhat psychotic superpower. And it has not been a pretty sight, with violence in the streets, nearly a quarter of a million people dead from the coronavirus, its economy in the toilet, the credibility of its elections and institutions in doubt, and a personality cult around its leader that every passing day feels increasingly familiar to those who have lived under totalitarian dictatorships.

Were not a democracy tweeted Republican Senator Mike Lee from Utah following the vice-presidential debate. And the spectre of violent coups, which was once thought to be restricted to s***hole countries, has reared its head in the US with the disruption of a right-wing plot to kidnap the Democratic governor of the state of Michigan and overthrow her government.

To a varying extent, similar problems with poor governance, authoritarianism, corruption and institutional decay are present in the UK and in other European countries. It is, however, unlikely that the West will face the same opprobrium and consequences that it has imposed on others whom it has deemed to have fallen by the democratic wayside. No sanctions, asset freezes or travel bans on its rulers, no resolutions condemning them at the UN, no threats of prosecution at international courts. It is unlikely that respected world leaders will be heading to the US to mediate its anticipated election dispute.

Still, the evaporation of Western prestige and hubris will have consequences for democracy in other parts of the world. For all their faults and hypocrisies, in much of the developing world, Western embassies and NGOs have been allies in the push to democratise governance. So much so that in much of Africa, authoritarian governments still deceptively refer to human rights and democracy as Western, rather than universal, concepts. There is a real danger that with their democratic credentials rubbished by events at home, it will be more difficult for the West to credibly support pro-democracy movements and efforts abroad.

That, along with the example set by the likes of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, may also encourage rulers with an authoritarian bent to take more liberties, calculating that their oppression is unlikely to attract opprobrium or consequences from the West.

Nestled in among the dangers are also opportunities for the world to wean itself off the patronising grip of the West. In Africa, for example, the African Union has of late been doing much to try to shed its image as a club for dictators, taking forceful stands against military coups and incumbents who refuse to accede to election outcomes. It still has a long way to go before it can be described as a bastion of democracy but the withdrawal of the West has gifted it an opportunity to demonstrate that it can stand with the people rather than with the rulers.

Civil society groups too will now have to look for other benefactors. Already the role for Western embassies in supporting reform movements was much diminished in countries like Kenya compared with what it was 30 years ago. But the reliance on Western governments and organisations for financing continues to be the Achilles heel of local groups an easy target for governments when they seek to delegitimise them as agents of foreign interests or to starve them by introducing legal ceilings on how much they can raise.

In Kenya, social media, coupled with money transfer apps, have emerged as an effective avenue for local fundraising, one which even the government has not been ashamed to tap into. For NGOs working in the governance space, local donations would not only reduce their vulnerability to nefarious governments but, as a measure of popular endorsement, would arguably increase their clout. Needless to say, it would also be a great way to encourage a sense of local ownership of the reform agenda. And as the sun sets on the Wests time as self-appointed democracy police, that can only be a good thing.

The views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeeras editorial stance.

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Does the world still need the West? - Al Jazeera English

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October 14th, 2020 at 6:54 am

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Jess Keiser explores the Enlightened psyche, "nervous fictions" in new book – Tufts Daily

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Jess Keiser (A06), assistant professor of English at Tufts, in his new book, Nervous Fictions: Literary Form and the Enlightenment Origins of Neuroscience (2020), investigates the relationship between literary forms and scientific advancement in 17th and 18th century English literature. Terming a hybrid body of work, which includes scientific writing using literary metaphors and literature incorporating science to explore the psyche, as nervous fiction, the book asks important questions about the relationship between the body and the mind, between rational scientific inquiry and literary expression.

Speaking at a virtual book talk sponsored by the Center for the Humanities at Tufts on Oct. 2, Keiser began by introducing the scientific underpinnings of the 17th and 18th centuries. This period saw advances in what is now known as neuroscience, of which the strikingly detailed studies of human cerebral anatomy by British physician and natural philosopher Thomas Willis in 1664 were a pinnacle, and it included Ren Descartes questioning of how nerves convey sensory information across the body.

Crucial to understanding the nervous fictions is the mainstream view of the nervous system at the time. Keiser explained that, according to this view, as the brain sends and receives commands to and from the body, the pineal gland acts as what Tufts Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies and Professor of Philosophy Dan Dennett dubs Cartesian theater. For example, in visual experiences, the eyes perceive sense stimuli and the nerves connected to the eyes then place the patterns perceived on the pineal gland; in this sense, the pineal gland is where thoughts and stimuli are unified.

The understanding of the nature of nerves also underwent a transformation during this period. Instead of the earlier categorization of nerves as animal spirits, later 18th century natural philosophers described nerves as solid tubes that vibrate like musical strings; one can strike an emotional note with another, causing their bodies to quiver in response.

Ideas like Cartesian theater and synchronized vibrations are attempts by then-scientists to explain neuroscientific concepts using metaphoric devices precisely what Keiser categorizes as nervous fiction. In addition, literary writers at the time also employ scientific figures to experiment with the idea of interiority. Keiser explained that, despite nervous fictions being fusions of science and literature, the two tenets are often in conflict in those works.

The most popular metaphors of the brain and the nervous system at the time include a castle, a kingdom or a state. The body is often depicted in hierarchical terms: the pineal gland as a throne, animal spirits being servants and so forth, according to Keiser.

Keiser also introduced the idea of virtual witnessing, a notion found in the 17th and 18th centuries, in which scientific documents were written as if the readers were present at the experiment. Because the nervous system is incredibly hard to be delineated this way, Keiser argues that science writers thus adopted figurative devices to reproduce the illusion of entering into the nervous system. He cited philosopher Gilbert Ryle, who proposed the idea of a double-life legend, that all outward and public actions are matched by internal and private ones. According to this theory, , when one smiles on the outside, something within their interiority is smiling as well, Keiser explained. Thus, nervous fictions take a microscopic view into the inner workings of our brain and attempt to explain how they translate to outward actions.

Nervous fictions have also made contributions to the mind-body problem how do the physical and biological aspects of the brain translate to our mental and psychological inner world? In his book, Keiser argues that nervous fictions directly respond to this philosophical dispute.

My argument is that the nervous fictions are a response to that gap, that sense of how do we get from matter to mind, Keiser said. [The] nervous in this concept is really nervous in two senses: about the [biological] nerves, but also nervous as an adjective about anxiety and uncertainty.

Keiser went on to discuss what he deems are the top five nervous fictions. Among those are a passage on the brain when in love from Thomas Willis book, Two Discourses Concerning the Soul of Brutes (1683). It proposes that when one is in love, all the animal spirits in other parts of their body would rise to the brain to watch the image of the lover, as if in a theater. Keiser argued that the personification of animal spirits is necessary for Willis to connect them to the feeling of love.

Other nervous fictions discussed by Keiser were Margaret Cavendishs The Worlds Olio (1655), which introduces panpsychism, the idea that everything thinks, including everything in the nervous system; for example, a hand has intelligence. In Laurence Sternes The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentlemen (1759), the narrator describes perceiving a vibration in his heart when speaking, yet the brain made no acknowledgement. Theres often no good understanding betwixt them. In The Hypochondriack (17771783), James Boswell criticizes the practice of anatomy, comparing the soul to a watch in a case that should not be opened, or else it will be ruined.

Jess Keiser explores the Enlightened psyche, "nervous fictions" in new book - Tufts Daily

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October 14th, 2020 at 6:54 am

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Alejandro Jodorowsky Reflects on ‘The Incal,’ 40 Years Later – Hollywood Reporter

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The Hollywood Reporter spoke to the 91-year-old artist about his collaboration with Moebius, the themes to be found in the book and elsewhere in his work and the relationship between his comics work and his movies.

Its the 40th anniversary of The Incal. Do you remember starting to work on the project?

When I made The Incal, here in France, bande dessine the comic was regarded little more artistically than in United States. They were in bigger editions or printed on nice paper, but they were always a continued storyline: you have a hero like Superman, [or] Spider-Man, and at that time, you were always continuing to make this stories. It is without end.

Then I decided I want to make a complete novel: I will make a start, an end, and all this only six books. Only that, one book every year. Then I can tell any story, not a continuation all the time.

I thought, "One day I will have The Incal in only one volume, like a real novel." The years pass, and now people start to understand The Incal is one complete story. That made me happy. My son is growing! He's an adult now.

The Incal, as I understand it, came about in part from your Dune project which is where you first worked with Moebius.

In the beginning, The Incal came out of a dream. I dreamt something like two pyramids, white and black together inside.

Later, when I did make Dune Dune, for me, was the adaptation of a book which is not so visual. The first 100 pages, you don't understand it very well it's complicated, very complicated. For my adaptation, I had invent a lot of visualizations this is the jewel of Jodorowsky. I didnt make the picture, but much of that work, [the material] not in the book, that led to The Incal.

One of the things that is interesting about where The Incal falls in your career though is that it picks up themes from El Topo, from The Holy Mountain. It is again, a story about enlightenment. It's a story about someone realizing their place in a grander scheme.

Yes. I always have this secret. In many of the theater plays and the novels, the character doesn't change a great deal. Hamlet, all the time is doubting! (Laughs.)He says, "I am good, I am bad," and he dies like that. So I said, "I will take a character who is down, down he's a miserable guy, all [of] the defects of the ego, all this kind of thing and, step by step, he grows and he grows. He doesn't want that, but it happens like that. In the end, it's speaking with God! In the end, he's the biggest character possible.

You were talking about how people approach enlightenment as you say, starting as one thing and becoming, maybe not intentionally, something greater. Is this a theme that speaks to you, that you find yourself returning to?

What is enlightenment? I searched for enlightenment in all kind of disciplines, spiritual disciplines. You don't see it, but I live in the library. I am full, full, full of books! I was searching because my father was an atheist, a Communist I was five years old and he said to me, "God doesn't exist. You die, you will perish and they are nothing. Nothing." He took from me, as a child, the metaphysical experience.

I have nothing to love, no faith, no nothing. I needed to construct my spiritual myself in order to survive. I was searching and, for me, enlightenment is how to find yourself. It's the discovery of your innocence. That is enlightenment. There is not one enlightenment. Instead, there is one [unique] enlightenment for every person who lives on the planet: to be what you are and not what the system and the other person want you to be.

John goes through that in The Incal. He, early on, is split into four versions of himself and it feels that your stories and The Incal especially I think, is an exploration into people being themselves and discovering themselves.

Yes. At this time, I was very even now, I am very inspired by the tarot cards. The four characters he becomes are the Minor Arcana: the sword, the wand, the cups, and the money. The four symbols. This money is a symbol of the body. Wand is the symbol of desire or sex. The cup is a symbol of emotionality, and the sword is a symbol of the searching, the mental searching. Intellect, emotion, creative sex, and the body who tries to find his freedom. Constantly, I put in The Incal, certain initiatic things, to initiate the reader and ask, what is the possibility that you could find yourself like that?

One of the things that The Incal, I think, perhaps started or perhaps gave you free reign to do was, to use science fiction as a way of exploring these ideas in a metaphorical way. Is science fiction an interesting genre for you to work in because it allows you to do things that may be outside of the norm in other genres?

I love science fiction. I read a lot of science fiction. You have tragedy, you have science fiction, you have cowboys, you have gangsters I chose science fiction because, in science fiction, I need to imagine all the universe. Cowboys, you need to have a pistol, you need to speak American!

Here was the complete freedom to create a universe. That was fantastic for me. That was fantastic, and I created a mystical universe, in a period ruled by a person who was like my father. John Difool in the beginning doesn't believe in nothing, only in the money. And he's trying to survive in the lower class. He is a little detective. This is constructed in the beginning like a pulp novel: he will be in a trap. He doesn't want to have this adventure. Until the end he doubts, he doubts, he doubts.

You said that The Incal was constructed as a novel. You went into it knowing the end, and it loops it ends where it begins. Was that something that you were very conscious of? You were writing a circle essentially. You're writing a story that echoes itself until it ends where it begins. Did you go into it knowing that?

I will tell you an anecdote. Moebius was, in that time, the genius of the comic book in France the highest artist. His working with me was like a gift! But no one in the comic book industry, French or American, was really attempting this kind of metaphysical story and then, I proposed a setting that was very specific, like a bottle. It's very important but to show at the start of the story, John completely falling through this enormous, enormous town.

For me, it was important because it's the end of the story he falls like this in the beginning, and he finishes like this. Moebius draws the first episode, and he includes everything but forgets to draw that. It's only one page. And then [the editors] say, "You cannot say to Moebius to change something. He's a master." (Laughs)I said, "Listen! You made a little mistake because this is the most important image. You need to do it." I enumerate the page 1, 2, 3, and this is the page number 2. He said, the page number 2? I draw it already! So he made page 1, 2, page 2B. (Laughs.)

I noticed that in the book.

I will not say that I knew its importance in my consciousness. In some way, I was feeling that in my unconscious, because I am an artist. I don't work with consciousness. I work with my dreams. When I wrote that book, every chapter I put the character in a difficulty. I don't know what's the solution, but whatever the situation, he cannot do it. I have a month to discover how hed do it, always, always. I knew in the end I could do it. I could do it.

How did you work with Moebius or any of the other artists in your comic work? What was your process?

Every artist is different. They will humor me with their own character, their own interdiction, their own pleasures. I need to be in the mind of the artist and to make a story they can follow. With Moebius, he had a facility for incredible drawing. You say, "Make a horse." He will start with the leg of the horse. He has the horse. He illustrated it in four days, every episode. Every episode in four days! He makes [exaggerated working noises] 12 hours a day, but we did it! I dictated the story, but I was a mime, I was an actor.

Is that the same that you have done for every artists or have other artists ... I remember reading an interview with you for Jose Ladronn for Final Incal you worked differently with him.

Different. Every one is different. Final Incal is Jose Ladronn. Jose Ladronn doesn't drawing with his hand. He will do it with a machine.

Oh, with a computer?

A computer. Everything is computer. He needs to make a sketch very quickly with pencil, and then with the machine, he makes the fantastic [artwork] he made. That takes more time. What Moebius takes four days for me, with Ladronn it's six months of work. Moebius makes one page a day.

That's amazing. That's amazing. Yeah.

It was a monster. He did it in 54 pages, 54 days. Less than two months.

I wanted to ask, what was it like moving from cinema to comics? Did you find your ambition changing? Were other things available to you?

Listen, I am not a normal person. Really, I am not a normal person. I have a big imagination. I write as quickly as it took Moebius to make drawings. I have an idea, I do the idea. I am not a movie maker, and I am not a screenwriter, a comic writer. I am everything. I don't prefer [one thing]. I love what I am doing.

I have [lived] now 91 and a half years. I am from the 20th century. Our century is the 21st.

Yes, but you're still creating. You're still making art. You're still alive.

What a difference in the two centuries! In the old century, a telephone was a telephone. But now you take a mobile and a mobile is still a phone but it's a camera, photography, movies, music. It can be everything. A man of this century is not only one thing because that is true of life now. Today, every person is Leonardo Da Vinci. He can make all the art. He can be a multifaceted artist.

You have always been that when I look at your movies, when I look at your comics, when I look at everything you make, it's clearly your voice. Even when you're working with comic artists, when you're working with the people making the movies, you are telling your story and it's recognizable as a story for you. That is why I was curious if you saw a difference in writing or creating for the different mediums. Because it feels like you're just constantly telling your stories.

The only thing is, theyre a different pleasure. Movies always are a collective work. You work with two people, three people, 20 people, 500 people. Growing, growing, growing. It's a big work and a lot of people, a lot of problems. When you make a comic, you are you and the painter, the artist. You are the only two.

In a movie, you are picking the people who are sitting and you create the movement. Everything is "you sit there and watch this," its passive. In comics, no. In comics, you make a person who will receive a punch here. The public needs to create in their mind the movement. Movement is inside the [audience]. It's another way to feel the story. In the movies, I need to see a movement and in comics, I need to see how to create the movement in the head of the reader. It's another world. It's another art.

But you have not only one movie, one type of cinema. You have industrial movies Hollywood. You also have movies made for a creator, artistic movies. In the artistic movies, all that matters is to create the work and the money comes later. For industrial movies, all the focus goes to money, to make a lot of money.

You also have commercial comics, which is a very good industry: Superman, Marvel. That was the industrial comic, where the principle to create a big, big audience, the biggest possible audience. When I made The Incal, I was searching in that time for the special audience who can understand that. I wanted to make an end for this story. In the commercial comic, there is no end.

You brought The Incal to an end. Looking back, what does it mean to leave the story and to finish it for everyone. Are you happy that audiences continue to keep this alive and revisit it and continue it?

I always thought it was a fantastic story. I love the story. Everything I do is like a child. Ask a mother the mother makes a monster and she will love the monster. When you are an artist, you love what you are doing. If not, you will not do it.

I am so happy The Incal has lasted 40 years because the audience understands it now. The good stories are always in advance of the audience: 40, 30, 50 years in advance. But if it is real art, it will travel through the time and come to an audience who understands it.


The 40th anniversary edition of The Incal is available now. Humanoids The Seven Lives of Alejandro Jodorowsky, edited by Vincent Bernire, will be released Oct. 13. A preview of both books can be seen below.

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Alejandro Jodorowsky Reflects on 'The Incal,' 40 Years Later - Hollywood Reporter

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Ethnic studies teach Latino kids to hate the US. It is dangerous for Arizona – The Arizona Republic

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Tom Horne, opinion contributor Published 6:00 a.m. MT Oct. 13, 2020 | Updated 6:45 a.m. MT Oct. 13, 2020

In Jan. 2011, outgoing Arizona schools chief Tom Horne announced in Phoenix that a major school district in Tucson was violating a new state law by continuing an ethnic studies program designed primarily for Hispanics.(Photo: Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

In an August column, Elvia Diaz criticized me personally for destroying bilingual education in the state, and Mexican American Studies in Tucson, when I was the state superintendent of schools, and later as Arizona attorney general. She called for making ethnic studies a graduation requirement.

Ethnic Studies in Tucson divided students by race. African American students to Classroom 1, Mexican American students to Classroom 2, etc., just like in the old South.

The students were taught critical race theory. This is their quote: Unlike traditional civil rights, which embraces incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundation of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.

Thats just what we need: teaching our students to be opposed to Enlightenment rationalism and neutral principles of constitutional law.

They referred to the states taken from Mexico in 1848 as Aztlan. Their materials stated,we are slowly taking back Aztlan as our numbers multiply.

They had a table that promulgates racial stereotypes by detailing the differences between white individualism (e.g. white people interrupt a lot) and colored collectivism.

The founders of the program describedthemselves as neo Marxists.Marxism taught that all history is about class struggle, to the exclusion of everything else. Neo Marxists substitute race struggle for class struggle as the only thing worth studying.

One of the textbooks wasOccupied America. It sings the praises of a leader named Jose Angel Gutirrez, one of whose speeches is described in the textbook as follows: Gutirrez called upon Chicanos to kill the gringo, which meant to end white control over Mexicans.

The textbooks translation of what Gutirrez meant contradictshis clear language.

Another textbook gloatedabout the trouble the U.S. is having controlling the border: Apparently the U.S. is having as little success in keeping the Mexicans out of Aztlan [US states taken from Mexico in 1848] as Mexico had when they tried to keep the North Americans out of Texas in 1830. the Latinos are now realizing that the power to control Aztlan may once again be in their hands (page107).

My main source was other teachers in the schools, a number of them Latinos, who were profoundly shocked at what they saw.

Hector Ayala,whowas born in Mexico and an excellent English teacher at Cholla High School in Tucson,told me thatthe director of Raza Studies accused him of being the white mans agent and that when this director was a teacher, he taught a separatist political agenda. His students told Ayalathat they were taught in Raza Studies to not fall for the white mans traps.

One teacher wrote me that he heard students being told they need to go to college so they can gain power to take back the stolen land and return it to Mexico. Another reported to me that Latino students told him that the land is not part of the U.S. but "occupied Mexico."

This teaching wasa betrayal of the students parents. They came to this country as the land of opportunity. They expected their children to be taught that this is the land of opportunity, not that they are oppressed so it is all hopeless, or to hate the country their parents chose to come to.

After I was no longer attorney general, a judge declared our statute unconstitutional. I hope the state Legislature and a new AG will try again.

Ms. Diaz accuses me of destroying bilingual education. I plead guilty:A periodical published by HarvardKennedy School found that students in English Immersion outperformed those in bilingual in every category studied.

Tom Horne served as Arizona's superintendent of public instruction and attorney general. Reach him at

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Ethnic studies teach Latino kids to hate the US. It is dangerous for Arizona - The Arizona Republic

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‘Biden or Trump?’ is a question that signifies the age of decay –

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Watching the recent US presidential debate led me to the saddening yet bitterly true conclusion that we live in an age of decay. Two adult men, with past records filled with corruption, take the stage trying to convince you that one of them deserves to decide for you instead of you. The show was nothing more than a laughingstock, and people seem to be aware of that which is the most frightening part. Donald Trump had a temper of an 8-year-old maybe less, while Joe Biden was hardly able to phrase a complete sentence without a cognitive black out.

Many Democrats have come to suggest that this election is the most important one in American History because supposedly democracy is at stake with Donald Trump refusing to give a clear answer as to whether he will leave the Oval Office if he is defeated in November. Well I am sorry to break it to them, but if a choice between a corrupt politician and a multi-billionaire is what democracy looks like I do not think there is much point in saving it, it is already dead.

Most younger people, like myself, realize this. Politics to us seem like a bad anecdote, we laugh at it because we do not know how else to respond. We, being nave to the power of the status quo, believed in the vision of the progressive movements that former leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn, in Britain, and Senator Bernie Sanders, in the US, represented. We hoped that perhaps we would not have to pay enormous tuition fees in order to get basic education. That maybe we would live in a world where decent healthcare would be provided freely, or that when we grew up we would be able to have a well-paying job and then earn a satisfying pension. Instead of this the great leaders of the world have set out to reverse the clock of history and undo all the great accomplishment that, through the bloody protests and revolutions of the past century, humanity had come to enjoy.

In this war against the many, nobody seems to be doing anything. This is why I call this age the age of decay we sit un-bothered as the decomposers of the world cause us to rot. The Millennials will be the first generation in the history of humankind to be worse off than the generation that preceded it. Here I urge the reader to re-read the previous sentence and let it sink in. This halt of progress is nothing more but the result of a society that can no longer question and oppose its leaders. The revolutionary specters that haunted the ruling classes of the 19th and 20th centuries, forcing them to behave, have been shot down through the well-planned propaganda of the educational system and mass media, or died by suicide due to their own contradictions. Parliamentary Democracy, this child of Aristocratic French Parlements, seems to be the only legitimate and acceptable system of governance. People have stopped seriously doubting it or bothering to find alternatives. Change, now, only comes through elections and in a packet of two.

A great Prussian philosopher, Immanuel Kant, when set out to write an essay answering the question What is Enlightenment? that puzzled 18th century philosophes, claimed that they did not live in an enlightened age, but they did live in an age of enlightenment. According to him, being in age of enlightenment meant that people had finally begun to doubt the age-old hierarchical structures and authorities that stood above them. Be it religion, monarchy, feudalism (or Parliamentary Democracy, or Presidency) people who wished to be enlightened needed to never accept someones rule without first questioning its purposes. Sounds simple, but apparently it is not. Of course, that was the age when humanity made its leap to the modern world, leaving back the tyrannies of the Middle Ages. Sadly for Kant, and perhaps even sadder for us who are still alive, three centuries later the enlightened age has not arrived, but worse: the age of enlightenment seems to have receded. Humanitys blindfolds are being worn again.

So, in the question Biden or Trump, I answer cake.

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'Biden or Trump?' is a question that signifies the age of decay -

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