March 13, 2016
It has taken me some months to catch up with Thomas Nagel`s MIND & COSMOS. This is a brave book, determined to sweep away the dictatorship of the new proletariat of the intellectual world, the Neo-Darwinians. Their obsession with finding a straightforward materialist solution to problems of the natural order of things has bullied all but the theists into silence. This in turn has invited the neo-Darwinian fanatics, and I do not use the word "fanatics" loosely, to denounce Nagel in terms that must have even the most hardened followers of the Stalinist school of denunciation birling in their graves. (more…)
October 4, 2015
Greg Grandin in his timely latest book attacks Kissinger’s decisions on Cambodia, Chile and elsewhere as expressions of a warped worldview that ignores human consequences. And he goes further, contending that Kissinger’s philosophy laid down templates that subsequent policy makers have embraced in staging questionable interventions in the following decades.
There could be no clearer evidence of this than yesterday`s bombing of the MSF HOSPITAL which killed at least 20 people including 3 children, while doctors caught in the attack pleaded that the bombing should be halted.
At virtually the same time, the drastic limitations of American psychological development where weaponry is integral to the psyche was echoed in the latest and almost simultaneous College massacre in Oregon. What is being taught in American universities and local colleges? Are the teachers grappling with the literature of profound instability?
It is this that renders America an inadequate defender of freedom. Weaponry has entered the very soul of the American citizen, a legacy of the fight for independence and of course written into the Constitution. (more…)
August 13, 2015
Farmers in Scotland have had to bring their cattle into their stalls months early because of the sodden fields. This has caused a financial crisis as the cows now require winter provender when they should be out in the fields, but worse than that they give the Feed Lots lobby ammunition for the promotion (more…)
April 16, 2015
from my latest book THEY STARED AT THE SUN: CONTEMPORARY DEVELOPMENTS IN EVOLUTIONARY THEORY
On the very day - 28th APRIL 1856 that Henry Thoreau spoke to Channing during one of their peregrinations on the reserved meaning of the insect metamorphosis of moths - he first definitely theorized " the succession of forest trees." Transformation inspired Thoreau`s inventiveness and his science. As the Lepidoptera "makes its escape from a loathsome worm, and cheats the wintry shroud , its chrysalis." The author of WALDEN realizes
Yes, I feel positive beyond a doubt, I must pass through all these conditions, one day and another, I must go the whole round of life, and come full circle.
He recorded in his Journal: "As I was measuring along the Marlboro` road, a fine blue-slate butterfly fluttered over the chain. Even its feeble strength was required to fetch the year about. How daring , even rash , Nature appears, who sends out butterflies early!"
December 8, 2014
In my "Address to the Thoreau Society at Concord" included in my 2014 Book THEY STARED AT THE SUN, I drew the audience`s attention to the blatant coinage by Mrs. Clinton of the term "mis-speaking," which was used to cover a downright lie relating to her account of her visit to Bosnia.
She has now taken matters further by exhorting us to "empathize with America`s enemies." Here she was quite clearly referring to Isil.
As one of the Fox News studio presenters remarked in response to Clinton`s proposal :
How are you expected to achieve that when someone is in the process of hacking off your head with a machete? And we might add all in the name of the illiberal, not to say fascistic, Sharia and enforced conversion to Islam.
Nowhere is the degeneration of liberalism more apparent than in the statements of Hillary Rodham Clinton. As George Galloway suggested some while ago, the desperate search for a spine among Western diplomats and politicians has reached absolute crisis point.
And as Michael Sheridan splendidly arraigned the mandarins in the British Foreign Office in the Sunday Times (7th December 2014):
they completely capitulated with barely a murmur to the Chinese when China recently ripped up the UN treaty with Britain on the occasion of its retreat from Hong Kong.
The present leadership in the West, compounded by failures (own goals) in policy over the past decades, is dire and implausible..
March 8, 2013
"Without him, no existentialism, no deconstruction, no post-structuralism as we know them."
George Steiner`s verdict in the TLS of 22 February 2013 on Martin Heidegger`s contemporary academic legacy in `How Private a Nazi`is even more true when applied to Edmund Husserl. Heidegger had brutally gazumped and then adopted many of the original insights (more…)
September 16, 2012
Goethe feared that already in his epoch the world was becoming “a barren place for the human affections to dwell in.” He fought a lifelong battle to fuse scientific investigations with poetry. For as he put it: “Beauty is the manifestation of secret laws of nature which, were it not for their being revealed through beauty, would have remained unknown for ever.” In other words, the development of knowledge is inseparable from the intuitive apprehension of beauty. Symmetry, not by any means identical to beauty but clearly related, has been instrumental in atomic discoveries. And it has perhaps been the unconscious spur to the quest for further knowledge in both the sciences and the arts in Francis Bacon`s idea of beauty as an image of infinity.
Concepts of beauty vary, of course, in diverse cultures and are ever-changing. Beauty can most usually be defined in the way that gravity locates a new star. It is to be posited in an oblique context, what Goethe called Darstellung “the demonstration or representation of an object, brought into relation with others in such a way that its significance is revealed.” Beauty, in other words, hardly exists as an absolute. In-your-face strategies, so to speak, will not work. There may be some intimation of perfection in an individual`s sense of the beauty of another human. It may be that initially this may be illusory, an eidolon. Benedetto Croce gives a vibrant appraisal of such beauty in his comments on Goethe`s Helena – “It is Beauty, enchantment, intoxication, perdition; Beauty, the very presence of which causes a trembling, a desire for joy, a desire for death, innocently guilty in this effect which it produces, yet seized by the sense of guilt of which it is not guilty, and awaiting it knows not what punishment, which will put an end to its tempestuous, devastating career.” But the appreciation of such beauty is only a start! The work is only just beginning. It may be chasing a will-o-the-wisp, but one is led into attempting to put conceptual life on this glimpsed perfection.
Bertrand Russell proposed that “mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty — a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture.” Goethe came to understand the beauty of the Gothic Strasbourg Cathedral as a fusion of character and symmetry. His was a slow process of appreciation, also taking in the cathedrals at Cologne and Freiburg. As he says in Poetry and Truth:
"We see that each and every ornament is in complete harmony with every part that it decorates, is subordinated thereto, and appears to have been generated thereby…I know that I myself, although enraptured by this great work on first sight, needed much time in order to become intimately acquainted with its merit." So the percolation of some forms of beauty is gradual, takes time and, as it were, steals upon the viewer. Less clearly `out there` is the beauty of language and its ramifications. Language, when fully comprehended, offers a warmer truth than architecture or sculpture since language is so intimate to human experience. What has not been clearly defined previously is the specific way humans through the ages have unconsciously created the clues in language and art to understand their nature more fully. As in the genetic lottery that gave rise to the human species, these clues are apparently randomly thrown out in early language. The great theoretician of beauty, Benedetto Croce - had sensed this. He wrote that “the much-sought-for science of language, general Linguistic, in so far as what it contains is reducible to philosophy, is nothing but Aesthetic...Philosophy of language and philosophy of art are (sic) the same thing.”
A soon-to-be published book of mine will hopefully reveal the most significant symmetries of language, and at the same time reveal their metaphors in nature where they translate as natural beauty. This is not a mere sleight of mind and logic, but a genuine historical actuality, and one of great importance for an interpretation of human nature. It owes a great deal to the pioneering thinking of Norman O. Brown, the author of Life against Death and Love`s Body. (more…)
June 6, 2012
This is a shocking report from the Monday Deccan Herald confirming the continuing wrecking of lepidoptera sites:
Massive decline in butterflies in Himalayas
Shimla, June 4 (IANS)
The lofty western Himalayas are being slowly robbed of their butterflies, with at least 50 percent of the species showing a massive decline in less than a decade due (more…)
May 27, 2012
The impending arrival of the Olympic Games to Britain has produced fevered comments on their relationship to Zeus (London Tmes, Telegraph et al.)
They were in fact instituted to honor Pelops in 776 BCE. He was the son of Tantalus and grandfather of Agamemnon who was to lead the Greeks into war with the Trojans. (more…)
March 7, 2012
The death of Dmitri Nabokov at Vevey on 22nd February after a series of illnesses deprives us of a rather wonderful author in his own right. Back in 2003, I had contacted him to enquire about the possibility of his (re-)constructing his father`s book on Butterflies in Art from the cards on which he jotted down his notes. His reply to someone who had written on Vladimir only en passant had been seriously considered, and I received the following on Tuesday 11 March 2003: (more…)