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All posts for the month September, 2007

As you will have noticed I’m a big fan of the BBC, and regularly pick-up stories from there, as well as referring to Melvyn Bragg’s incomparable “In Our Time” series. I only recently came across Laurie Taylor’s “Thinking Allowed” series on social science subjects, and I’ve been listening to old editions. Too many good topics to list.

Today I saw this news story and listened to this edition of “Thinking Allowed” from 20th June this year. The importance of alcohol (and other stimulants) to intellectual endeavours of times past and present was interesting enough, the association of beer with agricultural settlement too, and the unlikely British accented Felipe Fernandez-Armesto bemoaning  sherry being forbidden at student tutorials at Tufts in the US positively surreal.

The Bavarian Oktober-(well September to avoid beer during Ramadan)-Fest in a Palestinian West-Bank village was heartwarming enough but this quote especially interesting …

At one point, a young man who has come from Ramallah confides to me that he is a member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant offshoot of the Fatah faction.

This shy young man tells me why he – a Christian – wanted to join the quasi-Islamist group, branded a terrorist organisation by Israel and its allies for a string of suicide bombings in Israeli cities.

Then he looks down at the glass of beer in his hand, and around at the smiling crowds, and says it is the first day he has been truly happy for many years.

Same day as this happens of course. Slow progress.

Picked-up this collection of quotes from Tim O’Reilly via Sean Murphy, cross-linked because he refers to this quote from Pirsig talking about his ZMM, (and he uses a link to my Pirsig pages and bio timeline).

This book has a lot to say about Ancient Greek perspectives and their meaning but there is one perspective it misses. That is their view of time. They saw the future as something that came upon them from behind their backs with the past receding away before their eyes.

When you think about it, that’s a more accurate metaphor than our present one. Who really can face the future? All you can do is project from the past, even when the past shows that such projections are often wrong. And who really can forget the past? What else is there to know?

Ten years after the publication of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance the Ancient Greek perspective is certainly appropriate. What sort of future is coming up from behind I don’t really know. But the past, spread out ahead, dominates everything in sight.

The past, spread out ahead, dominates everything in sight; Plus ca change; ‘Twas ever thus.

The other quote I liked is from John Andrew Holmes

“It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.”

Finished Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell” – mentioned in the previous post. Excellent.

Two promptings led me ….

… to Hume (from Alice’s comments), I really must read in the originals, so I’ve downloaded texts from Gutenberg. (Also contact from Alice reminded me I’d still not finished “Atonement”, still sitting on the bedside cabinet – just time to read before the film hits the streets.)

… to Bergson (from Gav on MoQ Discuss) … also still sitting on the bedside cabinet, only partly read is Henri Bergson’s “Creative Evolution”. I put it down because I found it heavy going – dense text, maybe something lost in translation from the Polish / Irish / French into English ? and in only four enormous chapters with little other structure. Lots of highly speculative assertions, with very little argumentation, and few direct quotes from sources. Intelligent and well-informed on evolution for 1907, and mostly convincing even if you have to suspend disbelief how much is intended metaphorically rather than literally. Will take some serious effort to review and summarise.

To complicate matters, I also have Aldous Huxley’s “Perennial Philosophy” bookmarked at the bedside – highly intellectual and informative on so many different sources, but again having trouble with overall structure and seeing the point, the message - the wood for the trees.

Also in various states of partial reading – Thoreau’s “Walden”, “Coffee With Plato” by Donald Moor with foreward by Pirsig, Whitehead’s “Adventures Of Ideas”, Dewey’s “How We Think”, oh, and McKeon’s collected works of Aristotle.