Education · Human-ities · Science · Videos

The History Of The 1918 Flu Pandemic in Three Free Lectures

The Great Courses started offering free resources on the coronavirus outbreak back in March, with a brief “What You Need to Know” explainer and a free lecture course on infectious diseases. After catching up on the history of epidemics, we’ll find ourselves naturally wondering why we learned little to nothing about the Spanish flu.

Via Open Culture

Human-ities · Philosophy · Science

TOWARD A PHILOSOPHICAL APPROACH TO PSYCHIATRY

0912022_toward-a-philosophical-approach-to-psychiatry

There continues to be an impressive appetite for conceptual and philosophical explorations of psychiatry. The publishing field is now populated by a diverse array of backgrounds and perspectives. The general public seems mostly interested in decrying the medicalization of normal and the transformation of our woes into neatly packaged mental disorders. The academic literature is dominated by philosophers and philosophically-trained professionals; while the intellectual discourse is of high caliber, it unfortunately remains largely inaccessible to mental health professionals and much of the general public, and resultantly it has had little influence outside the academic community. There is also a cohort of individuals with a critical interest in the subject but whose philosophical focus remains stuck on classical critical figures such as Thomas Szasz, Michel Foucault and R.D. Laing, with little engagement with contemporary philosophy of science. The philosophical work of Kenneth Kendler and his various collaborators (John Campbell, Carl Craver, Kenneth Schaffner, Erik Engstrom, Rodrigo Munoz, George Murphy, and Peter Zachar) assembled in a specially curated volume occupies a unique and special position in this contemporary landscape and there is much to be said in its favor.

Via Metapsychology

(...) · Human-ities · Science

Evidence Rebuts Chomsky’s Theory of Language Learning

A680FCC2-FE3E-4FA4-A1623C6B4EDB9A79_source.png

The idea that we have brains hardwired with a mental template for learning grammar—famously espoused by Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—has dominated linguistics for almost half a century. Recently, though, cognitive scientists and linguists have abandoned Chomsky’s “universal grammar” theory in droves because of new research examining many different languages—and the way young children learn to understand and speak the tongues of their communities. That work fails to support Chomsky’s assertions.

The research suggests a radically different view, in which learning of a child’s first language does not rely on an innate grammar module. Instead the new research shows that young children use various types of thinking that may not be specific to language at all—such as the ability to classify the world into categories (people or objects, for instance) and to understand the relations among things. These capabilities, coupled with a unique hu­­­man ability to grasp what others intend to communicate, allow language to happen. The new findings indicate that if researchers truly want to understand how children, and others, learn languages, they need to look outside of Chomsky’s theory for guidance.

Read HERE

(...) · Human-ities · Science · Social/Politics

Experimental Governance: Thousands to receive basic income in Finland

money-1005464_960_720-890x270

Finland is about to launch an experiment in which a randomly selected group of 2,000–3,000 citizens already on unemployment benefits will begin to receive a monthly basic income of 560 euros (approx. $600). That basic income will replace their existing benefits. The amount is the same as the current guaranteed minimum level of Finnish social security support. The pilot study, running for two years in 2017-2018, aims to assess whether basic income can help reduce poverty, social exclusion, and bureaucracy, while increasing the employment rate.

The Finnish government introduced its legislative bill for the experiment on 25 August. Originally, the scope of the basic income experiment was much more ambitious. Many experts have criticized the government’s experiment for its small sample size and for the setup of the trial, which will be performed within just one experimental condition. This implies that the experiment can provide insights on only one issue, namely whether the removal of the disincentives embedded in social security will encourage those now unemployed to return to the workforce or not.

Still, the world’s largest national basic income experiment represents a big leap towards experimental governance, a transformation that has been given strong emphasis in the current government program of the Finnish state. Additionally, the Finnish trial sets the agenda for the future of universal basic income at large. Its results will be closely followed by governments worldwide. The basic income experiment may thus well lead to the greatest societal transformation of our time.

Read HERE

 

Human-ities · Science

All These Worlds Are Yours: The Scientific Search for Alien Life

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 10.24.45 AM.png

Where would you look for alien life? An astronomer and science popularizer explains the basics of astrobiology to outline five plausible scenarios for finding extraterrestrials

It takes Jon Willis, astronomy professor at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, 170 pages – the length of a Henry James short story, for Pete’s sake – to get around to the Drake Equation in his winning debut, All These Worlds Are Yours: The Scientific Search for Alien Life, but we should probably deal with it immediately. In 1961, at a conference in West Virginia, astronomer Frank Drake worked up an exotic-looking equation on a blackboard. Drake had just recently completed a project designed to detect alien radio broadcasts from the region of the star systems Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridanus, and the blackboard equation he wrote has become a signature parameter for the whole subject of Willis’s book, astrobiology.

More HERE

 

 

Bio · Human-ities · Social/Politics · Technology · Vital-Edible-Health

The Biology of Ideology: The anatomy of politics

A popular political advertisement from early this summer begins with US President Barack Obama addressing a crowd of moon-eyed supporters. Suddenly, the screen goes dark to a crescendo of minor chords. Phrases such as “Fear and Loathing”, “Nauseating” and “Divide and Conquer” flash onto the screen, along with video clips of commentators complaining that Obama has used scare tactics to manipulate voters. In the final scene, the iconic poster from Obama’s 2008 election campaign appears, the word HOPE transforming into FEAR as it bursts into flames.

The advertisement, produced by the conservative organization American Crossroads in Washington DC, is typical of those that have come to dominate the US airwaves and YouTube in preparation for next month’s presidential election. Emerging from both the right and the left, these commercials increasingly resemble horror films as they seek to sway voters by triggering basic emotions such as fear, anger and disgust.

That strategy fits with emerging scientific evidence about how people acquire their political beliefs. In the past, political scientists agreed that social forces — most importantly, parents and the childhood environment — strongly influenced whether people became conservative or liberal, and whether they voted or engaged in politics at all. “We now know that it is probably not the whole story,” says John Jost, a psychologist at New York University.

Read Full Article at Nature

Also:

Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Conservatives Are…Conservative

The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science

Architectonic · Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Public Space · Social/Politics

Radical Cities: Across Latin America in Search of a New Architecture

What makes the city of the future? How do you heal a divided city?

In Radical Cities, Justin McGuirk travels across Latin America in search of the activist architects, maverick politicians and alternative communities already answering these questions. From Brazil to Venezuela, and from Mexico to Argentina, McGuirk discovers the people and ideas shaping the way cities are evolving.

Ever since the mid twentieth century, when the dream of modernist utopia went to Latin America to die, the continent has been a testing ground for exciting new conceptions of the city. An architect in Chile has designed a form of social housing where only half of the house is built, allowing the owners to adapt the rest; Medellín, formerly the world’s murder capital, has been transformed with innovative public architecture; squatters in Caracas have taken over the forty-five-storey Torre David skyscraper; and Rio is on a mission to incorporate its favelas into the rest of the city.

Here, in the most urbanised continent on the planet, extreme cities have bred extreme conditions, from vast housing estates to sprawling slums. But after decades of social and political failure, a new generation has revitalised architecture and urban design in order to address persistent poverty and inequality. Together, these activists, pragmatists and social idealists are performing bold experiments that the rest of the world may learn from.

Radical Cities is a colorful journey through Latin America—a crucible of architectural and urban innovation.

Text and Image via VERSO Books

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Philosophy

On Cruelty | Judith Butler

‘Whence comes this bizarre, bizarre idea,’ Jacques Derrida asks, reading Nietzsche on debt in On the Genealogy of Morals, ‘this ancient, archaic (uralte) idea, this so very deeply rooted, perhaps indestructible idea, of a possible equivalence between injury and pain (Schaden und Schmerz)? Whence comes this strange hypothesis or presumption of an equivalence between two such incommensurable things? What can a wrong and a suffering have in common?’ By way of an answer, he points out that ‘the origin of the legal subject, and notably of penal law, is commercial law; it is the law of commerce, debt, the market, the exchange between things, bodies and monetary signs, with their general equivalent and their surplus value, their interest.’

In the first volume of The Death Penalty, Derrida considers the jus talionis, the principle of equivalence according to which a relation is set up ‘between the crime and the punishment, between the injury and the price to be paid’. Debt, in On the Genealogy of Morals, gives Nietzsche a way of understanding how ‘the “consciousness of guilt”, “bad conscience”’ came into the world. Earlier he laments ‘that whole sombre thing called reflection’, in which the self becomes its own object of relentless scrutiny and self-punishment. If one wants to keep a promise, one must burn memory into the will, submit to – or submit oneself to – a reign of terror in the name of morality, administer pain to oneself in order to ensure one’s continuity and calculability through time. If I am to be moral and keep my promises, I will remember what I promised and remain the same ‘I’ who first uttered that promise, resisting any circumstances that might alter its continuity through time, never dozing when wakefulness is needed. The promise takes on another meaning in Nietzsche when what I have promised is precisely to repay a debt, a promise by which I enter into, and become bound by, a certain kind of contract. What I have apparently burned into the will, or had burned there, is a promise to remember and repay that debt, to realise the promise within a calculable period of time, and so to become a calculable creature. I can be counted on to count the time and count up the money to make the repayment: that accountability is the promise. I can count on myself, and others can count on me. If I prove capable of making a contract, I can receive a loan and be relied on to pay it back with interest, so that the lender can accumulate wealth from my debt in a predictable way. And if I default, the law will intervene to protect his interest in the interest he exacts from me.

Read full text at London Review of Books

Architectonic · Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Philosophy · Public Space · Social/Politics · Technology

A Critique of Everyday Life

Henri Lefebvre’s magnum opus: a monumental exploration of contemporary society.

Critique of Everyday Life Volume One: Introduction. A groundbreaking analysis of the alienating phenomena of daily life under capitalism.

Critique of Everyday Life Volume Two: Foundations for a Sociology of the Everyday. Identifies categories within everyday life, such as the theory of the semantic field and the theory of moments.

Critique of Everyday Life Volume Three: From Modernity to Modernism. Explores the crisis of modernity and the decisive assertion of technological modernism.

Verso Books: Henri Lefebvre’s three-volume Critique of Everyday Life is perhaps the richest, most prescient work by one of the twentieth century’s greatest philosophers. Written at the birth of post-war consumerism, the Critique was a philosophical inspiration for the 1968 student revolution in France and is considered to be the founding text of all that we know as cultural studies, as well as a major influence on the fields of contemporary philosophy, geography, sociology, architecture, political theory and urbanism. A work of enormous range and subtlety, Lefebvre takes as his starting-point and guide the “trivial” details of quotidian experience: an experience colonized by the commodity, shadowed by inauthenticity, yet one which remains the only source of resistance and change.

This is an enduringly radical text, untimely today only in its intransigence and optimism.

Text and Images via Verso Books

Earthly/Geo/Astro · Human-ities · Science

Avoiding “Sagan Syndrome.” Why Astronomers and Journalists should pay heed to Biologists about ET.

A new paper using data from NASA’s Kepler telescope came out recently, estimating that 22% of Sun-like stars harbor Earth-sized planets. This is a big increase over previous estimates. It’s very cool work. Love it. But the news spin was predictable:

New York Times: The known odds of something — or someone — living far, far away from Earth improved beyond astronomers’ boldest dreams on Monday.

USA Today: We are not alone.

You get the idea. Aliens under every rock. The existence of extraterrestrial intelligence (henceforth ETIs, or just ETs) is normally discussed in the context of the Fermi Paradox, which Wikipedia describes as “the apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilization and humanity’s lack of contact with, or evidence for, such civilizations.” Now I’m a strong advocate for there being no ETs in our galaxy, as explained in this recent post. In fact I’ve gotten so tired of hearing about ETs I’ve started thinking of it as “Carl Sagan Syndrome.” Name checking the deservedly well regarded astronomer and advocate for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). With this latest news cycle I got to wondering. Why so much Sagan Syndrome? What am I missing?

Read full article by Nathan Taylor at Praxtime.

Human-ities

A history of laughter – from Cicero to The Simpsons

One of Enoch Powell’s most famous quips was prompted by an encounter with the resident House of Commons barber: a notoriously chatty character, who enjoyed treating captive clients to his views on politics and the state of the world. When Powell went in for a trim, the barber asked the standard question: “How should I cut your hair, Sir?” “In silence,” was Powell’s instant riposte.

Even Powell’s political enemies have usually admitted, a bit grudgingly, that this was a rather good joke. But what they haven’t realised is that it has a history going back more than 2,000 years. Almost exactly the same gag features in a surviving Roman joke book: the Philogelos (or Laughter Lover), a collection of wisecracks probably compiled in the fourth or fifth century AD. As with most such collections, some of the jokes included were already decidedly old by the time they were anthologised. In fact, we can trace the “chatty barber” gag back to Archelaus, a fifth-century BC king of Macedon. The “how should I cut your hair?” question was standard even then. And Archelaus is supposed to have replied to his own garrulous barber, “In silence.”

Presumably part of the fun for Powell (who was a better classicist than politician) was that he knew exactly how ancient the joke was. Whereas others admired what they believed to be his spontaneous quip, he must have been taking pleasure in the secret knowledge that he was merely repeating the age-old gag of an ancient Macedonian king, and one that may already have been prompting more groans than giggles when it was featured in the Roman Philogelos.

Read full article at The Guardian

Film/Video/New Media · Human-ities · Philosophy · Videos

Omar Khayyam: The Poet of Uncertainty – Full BBC Culture Documentary

Human-ities · Social/Politics

Why Did Borges Hate Soccer?

“Soccer is popular,” Jorge Luis Borges observed, “because stupidity is popular.”

At first glance, the Argentine writer’s animus toward “the beautiful game” seems to reflect the attitude of today’s typical soccer hater, whose lazy gibes have almost become a refrain by now: Soccer is boring. There are too many tie scores. I can’t stand the fake injuries.

And it’s true: Borges did call soccer “aesthetically ugly.” He did say, “Soccer is one of England’s biggest crimes.” And apparently, he even scheduled one of his lectures so that it would intentionally conflict with Argentina’s first game of the 1978 World Cup. But Borges’ distaste for the sport stemmed from something far more troubling than aesthetics. His problem was with soccer fan culture, which he linked to the kind of blind popular support that propped up the leaders of the twentieth century’s most horrifying political movements. In his lifetime, he saw elements of fascism, Peronism, and even anti-Semitism emerge in the Argentinean political sphere, so his intense suspicion of popular political movements and mass culture—the apogee of which, in Argentina, is soccer—makes a lot of sense. (“There is an idea of supremacy, of power, [in soccer] that seems horrible to me,” he once wrote.) Borges opposed dogmatism in any shape or form, so he was naturally suspicious of his countrymen’s unqualified devotion to any doctrine or religion—even to their dear albiceleste.

Read full article at the New Republic

Human-ities · Science

How do people lose their native language?

Sgt Bowe Bergdahl spoke English for 23 years until he was captured by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan five years ago. But since his release, he has trouble speaking it, says his father. How can you lose your native language, asks Taylor Kate Brown.

Some people have gone decades without speaking or hearing their first language but they retain the ability to speak it easily, says Dr Monika Schmid, a linguistics professor at the University of Essex in the UK. But others begin losing fluency within a few years of not speaking it.

It’s rare to totally lose command of a first language, she says. Instead people have “language attrition” – trouble recalling certain words or they use odd grammar structures. Age is a factor. Once past puberty, Dr Schmid says, your first language is stable and the effects of attrition can reverse themselves if you are re-immersed. But children as old as 10 don’t necessarily retain the language they were born into. In a study of French adoptees who left South Korea in childhood, when asked in their early 30s to identify Korean, they did no better than native French speakers with no exposure to the language.

The difficulties in recalling your first language are greater the more immersed you are in a second language, says Dr Aneta Pavlenko at Temple University in Philadelphia, because cognitive resources are limited. Despite teaching Russian at university in the US, she herself returned to her Russian-speaking community in Kiev to realise she had forgotten how to start a conversation at the post office.

It’s well known that brain injuries can have an impact on language loss, but emotional trauma can also affect it. Among German Jews who fled the country during the Holocaust, Dr Schmid says the loss of language was far more dramatic the greater their trauma.

All text and Image via BBC News

Human-ities · Philosophy

Fat-free chocolate and absolutely no smoking: why our guilt about consumption is all-consuming | Slavoj Žižek

During a recent visit to California, I attended a party at a professor’s house with a Slovene friend, a heavy smoker. Late in the evening, my friend became desperate and politely asked the host if he could step out on the veranda for a smoke. When the host (no less politely) said no, my friend suggested that he step out on to the street, and even this was rejected by the host, who claimed such a public display of smoking might hurt his status with his neighbours … But what really surprised me was that, after dinner, the host offered us (not so) soft drugs, and this kind of smoking went on without any problem – as if drugs are not more dangerous than cigarettes.

This weird incident is a sign of the impasses of today’s consumerism. To account for it, one should introduce the distinction between pleasure and enjoyment elaborated by the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan: what Lacan calls jouissance (enjoyment) is a deadly excess beyond pleasure, which is by definition moderate. We thus have two extremes: on the one hand the enlightened hedonist who carefully calculates his pleasures to prolong his fun and avoid getting hurt, on the other the jouisseur propre, ready to consummate his very existence in the deadly excess of enjoyment – or, in the terms of our society, on the one hand the consumerist calculating his pleasures, well protected from all kinds of harassments and other health threats, on the other the drug addict or smoker bent on self-destruction. Enjoyment is what serves nothing, and the great effort of today’s hedonist-utilitarian “permissive” society is to tame and exploit this un(ac)countable excess into the field of (ac)counting.

Continue to full article at The Guardian

Digital Media · Human-ities · Social/Politics

University of the People – where students get free degrees

Ali Patrik Eid is a happy man right now. A few weeks ago he graduated from a university that he didn’t pay a penny for. He didn’t even have to show up for lectures.

And when his wife gave birth to twins shortly after he started his course in business management, it was no problem for him to take six months off to help take care of them.

He was attending the University of the People (UoPeople), one of a growing number of online universities which are opening new doors to people, particularly in the developing world.

“I have always dreamt about having a degree but I didn’t think I ever would,” the 34-year-old Jordanian told the BBC.

Online learning courses are not new – the University of Phoenix, for example, has been offering 100% online learning since 1987 – but the UoPeople is the first tuition-free online college that grants degrees.

Students are asked to pay a $100 (£58) fee for every exam they take but if they can’t afford it, they can take advantage of a range of available scholarships.

Read Full article at BBC

Digital Media · Human-ities · Social/Politics · Technology

How Technology Takes Over English Departments

article_inset_kirsch

he humanities are in crisis again, or still. But there is one big exception: digital humanities, which is a growth industry. In 2009, the nascent field was the talk of the Modern Language Association (MLA) convention: “among all the contending subfields,” a reporter wrote about that year’s gathering, “the digital humanities seem like the first ‘next big thing’ in a long time.” Even earlier, the National Endowment for the Humanities created its Office of Digital Humanities to help fund projects. And digital humanities continues to go from strength to strength, thanks in part to the Mellon Foundation, which has seeded programs at a number of universities with large grants—most recently, $1 million to the University of Rochester to create a graduate fellowship.

Despite all this enthusiasm, the question of what the digital humanities is has yet to be given a satisfactory answer. Indeed, no one asks it more often than the digital humanists themselves. The recent proliferation of books on the subject—from sourcebooks and anthologies to critical manifestos—is a sign of a field suffering an identity crisis, trying to determine what, if anything, unites the disparate activities carried on under its banner. “Nowadays,” writes Stephen Ramsay in Defining Digital Humanities, “the term can mean anything from media studies to electronic art, from data mining to edutech, from scholarly editing to anarchic blogging, while inviting code junkies, digital artists, standards wonks, transhumanists, game theorists, free culture advocates, archivists, librarians, and edupunks under its capacious canvas.”

Read Full Article at the NEW REPUBLIC

Digital Media · Human-ities · Social/Politics · Videos

THE END OF FACEBOOK. I know you know…Just reiterating.

Sure, at this point we just continue with Facebook because it is interesting to see the collapse of a city, we were brought into, from within.

“It is very unnerving to be proven wrong, particularly when you are really right and the person who is really wrong is proving you wrong and proving himself, wrongly, right.”
― Lemony Snicket, The Blank Book

“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.”
― Leo Tolstoy, A Confession

“So far, about morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.”
― Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

“It is not truth that matters, but victory.”
― Adolf Hitler

Human-ities · Science · Theory

Found after 500 years, the wreck of Christopher Columbus’s flagship the Santa Maria

More than five centuries after Christopher Columbus’s flagship, the Santa Maria, was wrecked in the Caribbean, archaeological investigators think they may have discovered the vessel’s long-lost remains – lying at the bottom of the sea off the north coast of Haiti. It’s likely to be one of the world’s most important underwater archaeological discoveries.

“All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus’ famous flagship, the Santa Maria,” said the leader of a recent reconnaissance expedition to the site, one of America’s top underwater archaeological investigators, Barry Clifford.

“The Haitian government has been extremely helpful – and we now need to continue working with them to carry out a detailed archaeological excavation of the wreck,” he said.

So far, Mr Clifford’s team has carried out purely non-invasive survey work at the site – measuring and photographing it.

Read full story at The Independent.

Human-ities · Science

How the brain creates visions of God

For most of recorded history, human beings situated the mind — and by extension the soul — not within the brain but within the heart. When preparing mummies for the afterlife, for instance, ancient Egyptian priests removed the heart in one piece and preserved it in a ceremonial jar; in contrast, they scraped out the brain through the nostrils with iron hooks, tossed it aside for animals, and filled the empty skull with sawdust or resin. (This wasn’t a snarky commentary on their politicians, either—they considered everyone’s brain useless.) Most Greek thinkers also elevated the heart to the body’s summa. Aristotle pointed out that the heart had thick vessels to shunt messages around, whereas the brain had wispy, effete wires. The heart furthermore sat in the body’s center, appropriate for a commander, while the brain sat in exile up top. The heart developed first in embryos, and it responded in sync with our emotions, pounding faster or slower, while the brain just sort of sat there. Ergo, the heart must house our highest faculties.

Meanwhile, though, some physicians had always had a different perspective on where the mind came from. They’d simply seen too many patients get beaned in the head and lose some higher faculty to think it all a coincidence. Doctors therefore began to promote a brain-centric view of human nature. And despite some heated debates over the centuries—especially about whether the brain had specialized regions or not—by the 1600s most learned men had enthroned the mind within the brain. A few brave scientists even began to search for that anatomical El Dorado: the exact seat of the soul within the brain.

Read full article written by Sam Kean at SALON.
Image above: Eugene Thirion’s “Jeanne d’Arc” (1876)

Human-ities · Philosophy · Science · Theory

Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain

Different kinds of pain summon different terms of art: hurt, suffering, ache, trauma, angst, wounds, damage. Pain is general and holds the others under its wings; hurt connotes something mild and often emotional; angst is the most diffuse and the most conducive to dismissal as something nebulous, sourceless, self-​indulgent, and affected. Suffering is epic and serious; trauma implies a specific devastating event and often links to damage, its residue. While wounds open to the surface, damage happens to the infrastructure—​often invisibly, irreversibly—​and damage also carries the implication of lowered value. Wound implies en media res: The cause of injury is in the past but the healing isn’t done; we are seeing this situation in the present tense of its immediate aftermath. Wounds suggest sex and aperture: A wound marks the threshold between interior and exterior; it marks where a body has been penetrated. Wounds suggest that the skin has been opened—​that privacy is violated in the making of the wound, a rift in the skin, and by the act of peering into it.

Read Full Article by Leslie Jamison at VQR

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Social/Politics

Cradle of Civil Disobedience: Gandhi Before India

At the end of the 19th century, Mohandas Gandhi was a young lawyer living in Durban, South Africa. He left his house in Beach Grove every morning for an office on Mercury Lane, where he spent much of the day helping his fellow Indian immigrants navigate the onerous colonial bureaucracy. He kept meticulous records, including a logbook of correspondence — from an English missionary and local planters, and a series of letters exchanged with the Protector of Indian Immigrants about the treatment of indentured laborers. In January of 1897, and again a few months later, he heard from another lawyer who was, like him, a Gujarati who had studied in England and then struggled to establish a practice in Bombay. The contents of these letters are unknown. In a remarkable new biography, “Gandhi Before India,” Ramachandra Guha gingerly speculates about what they might have been. Expressions of support for Gandhi’s nascent activism? Or perhaps “explorations of interest in a possible career in South Africa”? Guha wisely stops there. What is not in doubt is the name in Gandhi’s logbook — “M. A. Jinnah,” Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who would become the founder of Pakistan. “All we now know is that, a full 50 years before partition and the independence of India and Pakistan, the respective ‘Fathers’ of those nations were in correspondence.”

Read Full Article at NYT

Human-ities · Social/Politics

The making of a Marx: The life of Eleanor Marx, the mother of socialist feminism

When I set out to write the life of Eleanor Marx in 2006 some friends worried that yet again I’d been seduced by an unfashionable and overly abstruse biographical subject. Either that, or they just said: “Who?” A Marx? The mother of socialist feminism? It didn’t sound catchy in our new century.

Yet Eleanor Marx is one of British history’s great heroes. Born in 1855 in a Soho garret to hard up German immigrant exiles, her arrival was initially a disappointment to her father. He wanted a boy. By her first birthday Eleanor had become his favourite. She was nicknamed Tussy, to rhyme, her parents said, with “pussy” not “fussy”. Cats she adored; fussy she wasn’t. She loved Shakespeare, Ibsen, both the Shelleys, good poetry, bad puns and champagne. She would be delighted to know that we can claim her as the first self-avowed champagne socialist.

Yet during the journey of writing the life of Eleanor Marx I discovered that I was writing about an increasingly topical subject. Friends sent me articles about the resurgence in the reading of the primary work of Marx and Engels amongst the under-50s, particularly in countries where there are currently new movements for social democracy.

Read full article at the Independent

Human-ities · Science

Using a foreign language changes moral decisions

A new study from psychologists at the University of Chicago and Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona finds that people using a foreign language take a relatively utilitarian approach to moral dilemmas, making decisions based on assessments of what’s best for the common good. That pattern holds even when the utilitarian choice would produce an emotionally difficult outcome, such as sacrificing one life so others could live.

“This discovery has important consequences for our globalized world, as many individuals make moral judgments in both native and foreign languages,” says Boaz Keysar, Professor of Psychology at UChicago. “The real world implications could include an immigrant serving as a jury member in a trial, who may approach decision-making differently than a native-English speaker.” Leading author Albert Costa, UPF psychologist adds that “deliberations at places like the United Nations, the European Union, large international corporations or investment firms can be better explained or made more predictable by this discovery.”

Read full article at Science Daily.

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Earthly/Geo/Astro · Human-ities · Philosophy · Science

Everything is Leaf: In The Metamorphosis of Plants, Goethe turned to botany — because sometimes, poetry isn’t enough.

Found among the notes of the poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe is a stupendous claim: Everything is leaf. This is a statement that seems too beautiful to be science. Goethe came to this idea on a trip to Italy in the late 1700s. The more Goethe looked at plants, and lived and breathed with plants, the more profoundly he felt poetry’s limits. He turned to botany and began publishing scientific works. He created his own study of seeing, which he called “morphology.” In this, Goethe’s love of plants followed the same path that all lasting love must take. Goethe wanted to know plants from their most essential beginnings, wanted to touch their seeds, follow their cycles. He couldn’t be satisfied just wandering around parks, glancing at the flowers and pronouncing metaphors upon them — Goethe had to understand what a plant truly is. Everything is leaf, he discovered at last, every part of a plant is leaf. The cotyledon, the foliage, the cataphylls, the petals — a plant is fundamentally leaf. Goethe published this intimate memoir of his relationship with leaves and named it The Metamorphosis of Plants.

It’s unsurprising that Goethe came to his idea about the everythingness of leaf while wandering the lush countryside of Naples. I wonder if he could have had his realization trudging through the barren early spring gardens of Weimar. “The Neapolitan firmly believes that he lives in Paradise and takes a very dismal view of northern countries,” Goethe wrote in his notebook. “Sempre neve, case di legno, gran ignoranza, ma denari assai — that is how he pictures our lives. For the edification of all northerners, this means: ‘Snow all the year round, wooden houses, great ignorance, but lots of money.’” That is to say, a leaf in Germany is a mostly invisible thing. It is an entr’acte, a promise. In the northern parts of the world, the leaves hide inside the sticks; the sticks, for most of the year, look dead. And only a poet or a flimflammer could come up with the notion that something hardly visible is everything.

Text by Stefany Anne Golberg. Continue at The Smart Set.

Art/Aesthetics · Human-ities · Social/Politics

When Hitler Was Curator

Hitler loved art. His taste tended toward classicism. The Greek ideal of beauty was his general standard in aesthetics. He once wrote the following memorandum about how he guaranteed that he would get “good” art for the Munich Museum. “I have inexorably adhered to the following principle,” Hitler wrote.

If some self-styled artist submits trash for the Munich exhibition, then he is a swindler, in which case he should be put in prison; or he is a madman, in which case he should be in an asylum; or he is a degenerate, in which case he must be sent to a concentration camp to be “reeducated” and taught the dignity of honest labor. In this way I have ensured that the Munich exhibition is avoided like the plague by the inefficient.

And it was. I suspect a number of contemporary curators and museum directors feel roughly the same way Hitler did about artists who “submit trash.” But what made Hitler, Hitler — and not just your average Museum Director — was that he was willing to go that extra mile. He did, actually, send artists to prison, the asylum, and the concentration camp.

The current show at the Neue Galerie in New York City (“Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937”) mostly displays art that appeared in the now-infamous “Degenerate Art” exhibits organized by the Nazis in Munich and then taken to other cities around Nazi Germany. The point of the “Degenerate Art” exhibits was to demonstrate just how bad modern art had become, according to the Nazi sensibility.

In the late 1930s, Hitler made it Goebbels’ responsibility to purge art of degeneracy. Goebbels appointed Adolf Ziegler, who happened to be one of Hitler’s favorite painters, to the position of Director of the Reich Chamber of Visual Art. Ziegler looked around and declared many of the artworks of his time, “the products of insanity, of impudence, of ineptitude, and of decadence.” Ziegler went about the process of seizing much of this “degenerate” art, some of which appeared in the “Degenerate Exhibit” before being sold off to other countries or destroyed. The show at the Neue Galerie includes paintings by Max Beckmann, George Grosz, Oskar Kokoschka, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Paul Klee — to name a few of the most well-known “degenerates.” The Neue Galerie’s show also displays some of the work that Hitler and the Nazi apparatus liked. There is a painting by Adolf Ziegler himself, entitled “The Four Elements: Fire, Earth, and Water, Air” (1937). This painting was a special favorite of Hitler. He kept it hanging in his Munich apartment.

Written by Morgan Meis. Read full article at The Smart Set.

Human-ities · Science

How sex rules our dreams

When I was a hormone-addled adolescent in the late 1960s and early ’70s, I would often look up at a poster of Sigmund Freud on my brother’s bedroom wall. The title on the portrait – something like ‘Freud: explorer of the unconscious and discoverer of the meaning of dreams’ – depicted a hero of intellectual freedom and creative thought. When you looked at it closely, the portrait seemed to writhe and come alive. In the drug-fueled style of those decades of ongoing sexual revolution, the artist had depicted the nose as an erect penis, the cheeks as a female behind, and the eyes as female breasts. One side of the face was a voluptuous female whose legs wrapped around the body of a muscular male on the other side of the face and, of course, both heads were thrown back in dramatized ecstasy. I recall some of my brother’s stoned friends gazing at the portrait with bewildered looks on their faces, apparently unsure if the writhing torsos they saw were really there or not.

Right from the start, I saw Freud as a kind of secular saint because he was willing to take an unbiased look at himself through the raw material of his dreams. If he found in those dreams a mass of broiling sexual impulses, so be it. Those impulses had to be accepted, understood and explained within a larger picture of the human mind.

Continue this article at AEON.

Human-ities · Science · Social/Politics

The Reformation: Can Social Scientists Save Themselves?

Academic hoaxes have a way of crystallizing, and then shattering, the intellectual pretensions of an era. It was almost 20 years ago, for instance, that a physicist named Alan Sokal laid siege to postmodern theory with a Trojan horse. You may remember the details: Sokal wrote a deliberately preposterous academic paper called “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” He filled it with the then trendy jargon of “critical theory,” and submitted it to a prominent journal of cultural studies called Social Text. Amid worshipful citations of postmodern theorists and half-baked references to complex scientific work, the paper advanced a succession of glib, sweeping assertions (“Physical ‘reality,’ no less than social ‘reality,’ is at bottom a social and linguistic construct”). Social Text published it without demanding any significant editorial changes.

When Sokal revealed that his paper was a practical joke, the media went wild—or as wild, at least, as the media has ever gone over an academic prank. By successfully aping the methods and conventions of postmodern cultural analysis, and using them to serve intentionally ridiculous ends, Sokal had, for many in the public, exposed once and for all how unsound those methods and conventions were.

Continue this article at Pacific Standard.

Human-ities · Philosophy · Sonic/Musical

Toward Cultural Citizenship

The decline in student interest is recent, and particularly affects elite institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, says Bass professor of English Louis Menand. (His 2008 lectures at the University of Virginia, collected in The Marketplace of Ideas, trace the long-term national decline in the humanities since the early 1970s.) The current crisis is “continuous with that [national] story” of polarizing and contentious philosophical debates about the legitimacy of various subjects and approaches, but those conflicts, he says, “were never accompanied by a huge flight of students.” Now, “the numbers are a little alarming. From 2006 to 2012 we had a 35 percent drop in concentrators in English. I think history has also had a fairly dramatic drop. And when sophomores signed up for concentrations last fall, almost every department in the arts and humanities was down—some by a lot.” In five departments, there were fewer than half as many concentrators as among the previous class.

The reasons for waning student interest are not entirely clear. The Teaching of the Arts and Humanities at Harvard College: Mapping the Future, a report of the Humanities Project published in the spring of 2013 that included a quantitative study of the problem, revealed a 50 percent attrition rate among Harvard students who as pre-freshmen had expressed an intention to concentrate in the humanities. Most of those students defect to social sciences such as economics, government, and psychology. Menand believes that this trend is partly attributable to “what has become a kind of general conventional wisdom: that the humanities don’t offer people much that is practical in way of a career. And that is a little scary.” But because this has all happened since the recession, he says, “The hope is that these choices are tied to the economy,” and that with rising prosperity, interest will rebound.

Read full article at Harvard Magazine

Human-ities · Philosophy · Science · Social/Politics · Theory

Happiness and Its Discontents

As a critical theorist working at the intersection of Continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, and feminist and queer theory, I make observations about human life that are speculative rather than empirical. That may explain why my definition of character pertains to what is least tangible, least intelligible about our being, including the inchoate frequencies of desire that sometimes cause us to behave in ways that work against our rational understanding of how our lives are supposed to turn out.

If identity captures something about the relatively polished social persona we present to the world, then character—in my view—captures something about the wholly idiosyncratic and potentially rebellious energies that, every so often, break the facade of that persona. From this perspective, our character leaps forth whenever we do something “crazy,” such as suddenly dissolving a committed relationship or leaving a promising career path. At such moments, what is fierce and unapologetic about us undermines our attempts to lead a “reasonable” life, causing us to follow an inner directive that may be as enigmatic as it is compelling. We may not know why we feel called to a new destiny, but we sense that not heeding that call will stifle what is most alive within us.

Text by Mari Rutti at The Chronicle Review. Continue THERE