Time is not on our side

Copy of twitter - quote + icon

No doubt, Greek and Chinese philosophers have produced similar poetic quotes. More than ever, it is current in the current climate context.

Over the past years, leading thinkers have written and spoken about climate change. I’m not talking about scientists, activists or politicians – who obviously belong to the thinking species – but I refer to professional thinkers, such as Ulrich Beck, Bruno Latour and Peter Sloterdijk. Unfortunately, they do not produce a ‘consensus of 12,000 thinkers’ or even a consensus but they provide refreshing perspectives that complement the daily rhetoric. Continue reading Time is not on our side

Zweig’s Nietzsche

Should we dare to summarise Friedrich Nietzsche in one word, it would be loneliness. This great mind discarded in one blow 2,500 years of philosophy and stamped out, single-handedly or rather single-mindedly a brand new philosophy that was like nothing the world had ever seen before, and that was hence never recognised in every sense of the word during his lifetime. Brilliant but misunderstood, heroic but frail, a poetic soul but deeply resented in his time, it was inevitable for Nietzsche to enter into deep conflict with the world.

Other Zweig biographies tell a story (Tolstoy, Casanova, Erasmus, …). When it comes to Nietzsche, there is no story to tell. As a lonely soul, without a family, without friends, without colleagues, without peers, without supporters, even without an audience, Nietzsche survives through his ideas. But what an inheritance it is! Continue reading Zweig’s Nietzsche

Time, space and social media: A reader’s reflection on Paul Virilio

Not much new on this spinning world. Donald Trump has brought forward the most obvious link of social media and international diplomacy. This is a logical progression in historical convergence of politics and mass communications. Paul Virilio, who passed away last month (10 September 2018), had much to say about this and his inspiring writings provide the most insightful analyses. This brief blog is a reflection of my understanding… and hopefully an invitation to those interested to read more Paul Virilio. Continue reading Time, space and social media: A reader’s reflection on Paul Virilio

Zweig’s Erasmus

Stefan Zweig wrote quite a few mini-biographies. Some of these paint a  clear picture of his subject in the opening pages. In a couple of paragraphs, he grants us the illusion of deep insight. Suddenly all we know of Erasmus, Casanova or Tolstoy makes sense. It fools us into a deeper understanding. Such sudden insight is of course fictitious and Zweig has played a neat trick on us. We’ll realize this later on, when he  changes tone several times.

I loved Zweig’s Erasmus for the complex personality it unfolds. Did he admire or abhor his personality? Is Erasmus the father of Europe? Should we consider him a hero or a coward? Did he fail to do what he could to appease the religious conflicts during the reformation, or plant a seed for humanity in a period of turmoil that lights our path today and tomorrow? To all these questions, Zweig answers with a ‘yes’ or ‘both’. Continue reading Zweig’s Erasmus

Mankind’s great inventions

In a short essay, Stefan Zweig summarizes mankind’s two major inventions:

  1. Rotation: the wheel freeing us from being bound to the land, leading to transportation, trade and eventually to rotating machines (steam engines, propellers, turbines) enabling the industrial revolutions and making the world a village.
  2. Writing, allowing us to reach out beyond our immediate circle of contact to the wider world and even to the future. This led to the organisation of societies, the construction of great organizations and institutions and eventually putting a man on the moon.

Continue reading Mankind’s great inventions

E-Prime – a new language for English speakers

Santayana

Seventy years ago, when D David Bourland Jr wrote his first paper in E-Prime, he left a strong hint of what had tried to achieve in a footnote. Nobody noticed. For fifteen years, he continued to write in E-Prime until finally he wrote about E-Prime. E-Prime is English that avoids using any form of the verb ‘to be’ (am, is, are, was, were, been, …). It seems simple enough but a quick look using a word counter reveals that the use of the various forms of ‘to be’ makes up typically between one and three percent of the words on a page. Hence, ‘to be’ affects a major portion of our sentences (typically 30-50% for a few texts that I checked).

Continue reading E-Prime – a new language for English speakers

Beware the allness trap

There is at least one cow in Scotland, of which one side appears to be brown.

According to Montaigne’s essay on inconsistency, we’re so fickle and unpredictable that it has led some to believe man has two souls. In practice, we observe that no two contexts are ever the same. Different behaviour results from different contexts. This observation makes Montaigne the first general semanticist, more than three centuries before Alfred Korzybski. Continue reading Beware the allness trap

We Have Never Been Modern

Latour (2)

Darn Dusan. After lending me this book, I can never use the term “modern” again. I don’t miss the somewhat pedantic “premodern” or “postmodern” but “modern” is so much part of daily life! Latour’s concessions for “nonmodern” and “amodern” are meager compensations.

Continue reading We Have Never Been Modern

What’s your favourite pastime?

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This summer, we visited the castle of Chantilly, one of the great Châteaux around Paris (besides Versailles, Fontainebleau). There, you can observe the excesses that collector madness can lead to. The castle comes packed with medallions, precious stones, stained glass windows, ceramics, etc. However, two collections stand out: books and paintings, the favourite pastimes of the 19th century Duke of Aumale.

Continue reading What’s your favourite pastime?

Writing a Review

The other day, Denzil, Dusan and I were talking about of book reviews. This post puts a few thoughts together based on this conversation. Let me take full and sole responsibility for the content of this post, while acknowledging the input of my conversation partners.

Developing and sharing a review depends on your desire to share a reading experience. It touches on the motivation why we read and it also guides us how to read. The world needs a little more meta-conversation on reading. There’s plenty of guidance on writing out there, but reading appears to be taken for granted. Continue reading Writing a Review