Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: Bertrand Russell, civilization, education, teachers, Unpopular Essays
Life can be a desperate, savage affair or it can be civilized. For it to be civilized, people need – by whatever means – to leave themselves behind and to understand – and I suppose even to love – this big old world. Some people who have been able to transcend themselves and understand aspects of the world have had massive civilizing effects on our lives. Teachers because they are brokers of knowledge are the agents of this civilizing and humanizing work. That’s what Bertrand Russell says in the following passage.
From Bertrand Russell:
. . . Civilization . . . is a thing of the mind, not of material adjuncts to the physical side of living. It is a matter partly of knowledge, partly of emotion. So far as knowledge is concerned, a man should be aware of the minuteness of himself and his immediate environment in relation to the world in time and space. He should see his own country not only as home, but as one among the countries of the world, all with an equal right to live and think and feel. He should see his own age in relation to the past and the future, and be aware that its own controversies will seem as strange to future ages as those of the past seem to us now. Taking an even wider view, he should be conscious of the vastness of geological epochs and astronomical abysses; but he should be aware of all this, not as a weight to crush the individual human spirit, but as a vast panorama which enlarges the mind that contemplates it. Continue reading
Filed under: the sweet life, unseen world | Tags: dreams, Michel de Montaigne, montaigne, philosophy, sleeping
Those who have compared our lives to a dream are right—perhaps more right than they realized. When we are dreaming our soul lives, acts and exercises all her faculties neither more nor less than when we are awake, but she does it much more slackly and darkly; the difference is definitely not so great as between night and the living day: more like that between night and twilight. In one case the soul is sleeping, in the other more or less slumbering; but there is always darkness, perpetual Cimmerian darkness. We wake asleep: we sleep awake. When I am asleep I do see things less clearly but I never find my waking pure enough or cloudless. Deep sleep can even put dreams to sleep; but our waking is never so wide awake that it can cure and purge those raving lunacies, those waking dreams that are worse than the real ones.”
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: D.H. Lawrence, democracy, freedom, liberty, Studies in Classic American Literature
Can you tie ideology to geography? Is Europe one thing and America another? Here’s an observation by D.H Lawrence that does. Regardless of the geography, surely some people – in the way they form themselves, and in the way they teach themselves to think – achieve freedom; while others merely the image of it.
Democracy in America was never the same as Liberty in Europe. In Europe Liberty was a great life-throb. But in America Democracy was always something anti-life. The greatest democrats, like Abraham Lincoln, had always a sacrificial, self-murdering note in their voices. American Democracy was a form of self-murder, always. Or of murdering somebody else.
The love, the democracy, the floundering into lust, is a sort of by-play. The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.
Studies in Classic American Literature, D. H. Lawrence – notes on James Fenimore Cooper’s The Deerslayer
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life, unseen world | Tags: Christianity, FREDERICK NIETZSCHE, immoralists, judgement, moralists, punishment, religion, Twilight of the Idols
People are described – by authorities and priests – as free so that their intention and will are fully transparent, conscious and traceable so that blame and guilt can be easily assigned.
In growing into ‘being’ the filter of will and accountability is added by moralists which makes a world infected by guilt and punishment. The goal of the immoralist is to rid the world of guilt and punishment by removing the requirement for accountability and will.
The lesson?: beware the tricks of rule makers and moralists, especially the manipulation of the concept that people are free which really means that people are free to be guilty.
Here is Nietzsche:
We no longer have any sympathy today with the concept of “free will.” We know only too well what it is—the most infamous of all the arts of the theologian for making mankind “accountable” in his sense of the word, that is to say for making mankind dependent on him…. I give here only the psychology of making men accountable. Everywhere accountability is sought, it is usually the instinct for punishing and judging which seeks it. One has deprived becoming of its innocence if being in this or that state is traced back to will, to intentions, to accountable acts: the doctrine of will has been invented essentially for the purpose of punishment, that is of finding guilty. The whole of the old-style psychology, the psychology of will, has as its precondition the desire of its authors—the priests at the head of the ancient communities—to create for themselves a right to ordain punishments, or their desire to create for God a right to do so…. Men were thought of as “free” so that they could become guilty; consequently, every action had to be thought of as willed, the origin of every action as lying in the consciousness (whereby the most fundamental falsification in psychologicis was made into the very principle of psychology)…. Today, when we have started to move in the reverse direction, when we immoralists especially are trying with all our might to remove the concept of guilt and the concept of punishment from the world and to purge psychology, history, nature, the social institutions, and sanctions of them, there is in our eyes no more radical opposition than that of the theologians, who continue to infect the innocence of becoming with “punishment” and “guilt” by means of the concept of the “moral world order.” Christianity is a hangman’s metaphysics.
FREDERICK NIETZSCHE Twilight of the Idols, 1889
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: education, humanities, J.M. Coetzee, society, university
J. M. Coetzee’s remarks on the decimation of the idea of the University over the past 40 or so years. He says we must resist the idea that the humanities are good for improving the population’s skills and argues that they are essential for their own sake, for their ability to make a rich and just and social life. The article is linked below.
At the beginning of his letter, he agrees that there must be academic autonomy, but then asks a deeper question: without the humanities is it still really a university?:
Thank you for letting me see your essays on academic freedom in South Africa. The general question you address – “Is a university still a university when it loses its academic autonomy?” – seems to me of the utmost importance to the future of higher education in South Africa.
Hardly less important is the junior cousin of that question, namely: “Is a university without a proper faculty of humanities (or faculty of humanities and social sciences) still a university?”
Governments, once guardians of the common good and benefactors of a literate citizenry, have morphed into mere skills training schools made to meet the needs of the economy:
But South African universities are by no means in a unique position. All over the world, as governments retreat from their traditional duty to foster the common good and reconceive of themselves as mere managers of national economies, universities have been coming under pressure to turn themselves into training schools equipping young people with the skills required by a modern economy.
You argue – cogently – that allowing the transient needs of the economy to define the goals of higher education is a misguided and shortsighted policy: indispensable to a democratic society – indeed, to a vigorous national economy – is a critically literate citizenry competent to explore and interrogate the assumptions behind the paradigms of national and economic life reigning at any given moment. Without the ability to reflect on ourselves, you argue, we run a perennial risk of relaxing into complacent stasis. And only the neglected humanities can provide a training in such critical literacy. Continue reading