Connections: Humanism in South India and Beyond – The Humanist

Humanism will be the only ism in the future. That is what we are trainingfor.

These were among the opening words at the international Humanism & Self-Respect conference held at the MontgomeryCollege Cultural Arts Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, last weekend. They were spoken by Dr. Sam Ilangovan,president of the hosting organization, Periyar International, a group dedicated to the teachingsand legacy of the twentieth-century Indian civil rights leaderPeriyar E.V. Ramasamy. Commonly referred to by his nickname, Periyar is revered in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu for championing humanism and challenging the caste system.

The American Humanist Association provided support for the conference, which featured presentations by a mix of US secular leaders, several Tamil scholars from Germany, and numerous South Indian humanists. Speakers from this last community (many of whom traveled from India) spoke of their history and about Periyars self-respect movement, which continues to push for the eradication of the caste system and is committed to female empowerment and economic and social equality for all.

US Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) addressed the several hundred in attendance (Silver Spring is part of his district, and hes also a strong supporter of humanism and the Congressional Freethought Caucus). America is a nation conceived with the idea of freethought, he said, noting that self-respect is partly about not allowing ourselves to be cowed or controlled by other peoplesideologies. He thanked the humanists before him for their continued fight for justice.

A panel on Humanism & Self-Respect in the US Diaspora featured several younger Tamil activists living in the United States who dispelled a number of misconceptions Americans have about Indians in general (e.g., people from India arent all vegans). They also reported on continued caste discrimination in the United States and efforts to add caste to the Civil Rights Act as a prohibited form of discrimination.

Roy Speckhardt presents the Humanist Lifetime Achievement award to Dr. K. Veeramani.

The Humanist Lifetime Achievement award was presented by AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt to Dr. K. Veeramani of India. Veeramani is the president of the Dravidar Kazhagam, a social movement dedicated to social reformation in Tamil Nadu. A social activist who worked alongside Periyar, Veeramani now publishes several rationalist magazines for children and young people. In his remarks to the younger panelists, he said the conscience of Periyar was being handed down to them to continue his legacy. He also closed the conference, echoing Ilangovans opening salvo in calling upon those present to seize the moment and fight for a world founded in humanism, justice, and self-respect.

In all, it was a humanist conference like none Id ever been to. Enthusiastic and at times bombastic announcements of speakers, programs, and new books were met with equal enthusiasm from the audience. There was an abundance of clapping, laughing, chatter, cell phonenoise, whistles, whoops, and baby cries. Accompanying the lively auditory stimuli was a beautifully adorned stage. The podium was covered in gold velvet drapery to which silk roses were pinned. Flower pots were placed along the front of the stage and on plenary tables covered in bright silks.At once feeling like a foreigner and a fellow humanist, I was fascinated and moved by this community and by their dedication to rationalism, equality, and human dignity.

As Westernhumanists, we tend to consider European enlightenment thinkers as the sole progenitors of the philosophy. Periyar Internationals Humanism & Self-Respect conference serves as a reminder that secular humanist ideals and principles have developed independently in other parts of the world, which only lends credence to their value and validity.

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Connections: Humanism in South India and Beyond - The Humanist

Phon(y)es – NDSU The Spectrum

The dangers of constant screen time PIXABAY | PHOTO COURTESYWill we get to the point where we will ever look away from our phones?

Are phones as spectacular as humans portray them to be and can we determine if the pros outweigh the cons? Phones are starting to take over lives. It is time to put phones down and take back what is rightfully yours: your mind.

Phones give impersonal access right in ones back pocket.

Humans are a social species. Phones put constant human interaction at the ends of our fingertips, but that is not enough. Phones cannot mimic nonverbal communication, phones cannot understand the feel of a room on a Friday night after a long week of classes.

The statement above is true. However, humans are dawning on the era of rationalism; a belief that opinions and actions should be based on reason and knowledge rather than an emotional response. This explains the attraction of a semi-emotionless communication system. The question is, is emotion a bad thing? The simple answer is no.

The purpose of phones is not to lend people a voice, but to take that voice away. Imagine a party where everyone is on their phone or laptop the entire time, thus defeating the purpose of having a party. This is not to say using these devices has to be a bad thing, but there is a time and a place for everything.

When you use your phone, you become your phone.

According to Forbes, on average, iPhone users spend a little over four and a half hours on their phones each day. The average American citizen spends roughly 10 hours and 39 minutes each day using smartphones, computers, tablets, or televisions.

To better understand this consider the fact that the average American sleeps for 6.8 hours a day, leaving them with 17.2 hours to be awake. Subtract the average screen time from the hours awake and Americans are left with 6.81 hours a day away from screens. That means the average American spends 62 percent of their day staring at a screen. Not enough time is being devoted to sleep or interacting with life appropriately. You can spend all day online reading about the taste of chocolate, but youll never understand its true beauty until you taste it.

Phones emit radiation.

The 5G crisis is slowly entering media talks. 5G is the fifth-generation cellular network technology. It is the newest cellular network technology. Phone companies such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint all use 5G.

Thousands of independent studies have been conducted showing that 5G may have adverse health effects such as cancer and DNA damage. 5G is a major increase in wireless radiation from 4G, using 24 gigahertz (GHz) or more, exposing Americans to radiation 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To this day, no safety studies have been conducted by the U.S. government. However, over 10,000 peer-reviewed independent studies have been conducted suggesting alarming implications like cardiovascular disease, learning and memory deficits, and cognitive impairment.


People should limit time in front of screens, especially their phones. The average American spends over half of their day looking at a screen, emitting themselves to potentially dangerous radiation. Humans are seeing adverse effects in regards to in-person communication skills due to the overuse and simplicity of texting.

Cellular networks are slowly taking control of our lives. Put your phone down and free your mind.

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Phon(y)es - NDSU The Spectrum

The Guardian view on a public health calamity: science facts need reinforcing – The Guardian

Freedom from fear of deadly disease is a luxury by historical standards, enjoyed by most British people. But luxury cultivates complacency. That is one explanation for a decline in the number of children receiving routine vaccinations. NHS data published this week showed a drop in uptake for the first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab from 91.2% to 90.3% in England. It is the fifth consecutive annual decline. It takes the UK further from the World Health Organization target of 95% coverage the point of herd immunity where collective defence can snuff out contagion. Last month the WHO rescinded Britains measles free status only two years after that milestone was achieved. There were around 1,000 cases last year double the number recorded two years previously. Mumps is having a similar resurgence.

There is something uniquely disturbing about a society choosing to make itself vulnerable to infection. There is no new pathogen to defeat. The means of prevention are available on the NHS. Their rejection points to a different trend the spread of toxic misinformation online and disregard for science in a culture that has devalued rationalism and expertise. Suspicion of the MMR jab peaked around the turn of the century and scare stories about an association thoroughly debunked with autism. That falsehood was beaten back by facts at first, but now enjoys a second life online as part of a much bigger apparatus of fear and fraud. Parents looking to Google or Facebook for information about vaccinations encounter mounds of deceit, camouflaged in pseudoscience. Some of it channels profits to quacks and charlatans. Some is a gateway to paranoid sites on the extreme left and right of the political spectrum. Some people, for whatever reason, just dont trust vaccines, even though we wish they would. Tech giants have been reluctant to police this realm because the anti-vaxx culture feeds a lucrative advertising market in hokum. Social media companies claims to be responsible corporate citizens clash with their commercial interest in clickbait poison. Anti-vaxx content might not contain hate speech or glorify terrorism, but it is still a public health hazard and needs to be regulated accordingly. Belatedly, some firms are acting on the menace, but the measures are not enough.

Meanwhile, the need to restore herd immunity is forcing the government to consider more assertive measures: compulsory vaccination or a requirement for proof of immunisation as a condition of taking up places at nurseries and schools. Such measures would bring additional bureaucracy and risk of a counterproductive anti-state backlash. Those are significant objections, but not insuperable when the associated benefit is averting epidemics and saving lives. Ideally, information campaigns, coupled with more efficient postnatal care, would be sufficient to shore up defences against disease. Not all vaccine refusers are anti-science militants. Many are just bewildered and amenable to persuasion. With the right methods, more can be done to help facts win this battle before compulsion becomes necessary. But there could yet come a point when the government may have to draw a line and declare a minoritys refusal to be vaccinated is a luxury that our society can no longer collectively afford to indulge.

This article was amended on 1 October 2019. An earlier version omitted the word no in the last sentence.

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The Guardian view on a public health calamity: science facts need reinforcing - The Guardian

The Interest around Chandrayaan-2 hides the Gloomy Future of Research in (…) – Mainstream

Home > 2019 > The Interest around Chandrayaan-2 hides the Gloomy Future of Research in(...)

by Sambit Roychowdhury

Writing on the Chandrayaan-2, the space mission, the nations imagination is aflame with several excellent articles on the mission having already appeared in both the national as well as international media. Besides that my own area of research and expertise is far removed from the technical or scientific aspects of space missions, myself being basically a scientist. Apparently I have little to add to what has already been said about Chandrayaan-2. But the sayings and doings regarding the mission of important people, either attached to ISRO or the Government of India, and the associated media coverage, got me thinking about the place of scientific research in our societal priorities and the consequent percolation of rational scientific thinking among the masses.

At first glance, it would seem logical that all of us, belonging to the broader Indian scientific community, should welcome all this media attention around what is at its core a scientific endeavour. And it indeed makes one happy, especially knowing that the interest thus generated is hopefully inspiring many girls and boys in the remotest corners of India to think of a career in science and technology. At the same time I have a nagging discomfort within me about the whole issue as a scientist who has been trained in the Indian research ecosystem. Maybe it is due to the fact that vedic maths (whatever that means), seers and gurus have become part of the discussion due to the doings of some scientists and bureaucrats connected with the mission itself! Or is it because a government, which has shown scant regard for scientific views or rationalism, given the statements of its leaders and more importantly its policies, suddenly using the mission to showcase itself as a champion of scientific and technological progress? Or is it due to the chest-thumping jingoism of a nation regarding a technological feat (which was unsuccessful by the way), when irrational and unscientific customs rule our daily lives? There are deep socio-political and historical issues that lie behind these questionsthings I am not remotely capable of discussing with any rigour. Therefore I decided to look for some answers in numbers and data in order to try and find out about the state of research in India.

World Bank data for the twenty years between 1996 and 20161 reflect some worrisome trends for India regarding investment in Research and Development (R and D). Spending on R and D as a share of GDP was stagnant at around 0.7 per cent, and remains so today, whereas countries with GDP higher than that of India (according to the United Nations estimates), like theUSA, Japan, Germany, the UK and France, spend at least double that percentage of their GDPs on R and D. It is actually above 2.5 per cent of the GDP for the USA, Japan and Germanyall larger economies than India. And its even higher for countries like South Korea and Israel that invest over four per cent of their respective GDPs on R and D. Much more importantly for India, our neighbour Chinas R and D expenditure increased from around 0.5 per cent to two per cent during that same 20-year period, and continues to grow rapidly. In fact, the expenditure on R and D as a percentage of the GDP increased from 0.6 per cent to 1.5 per cent for all low and middle-income economies as a whole between 2000 and 2016, and the world average has increased marginally from around two per cent to 2.2 per cent.

During the same 1996 to 2006 period, Japan had more than 5000 researchers per million people. The USA, Germany, the UK and France increased their numbers from around 3000 to above 4000 researchers per million people. China increased the number of researchers per million people from below 500 to above 1000. And all this while the number of researchers in India per million people remained constant at around 150.2

We should also consider the quality of research output along with the quantity. Considering citations per document (a good measure of the quality of average research output) of all publications in all research areas between 1996 and 2018, India ranks 191st among all countries in the world.3 There is a small number of statistics which can skew the above ranking, given that it includes many countries which produce only a small number of research papers. If one only considers countries which have produced more than 10,000 publications during the above mentioned time period, India ranks 77th among 98 countriesa list that includes both high income as well as low and middle-income economies. Interestingly, of the six countries with GDP higher than India mentioned previously, China has a rank lower than India (82nd). Japan ranks 31st, while the other four are in the top 20.

So we find that Indias investment in R and D is well below the average and shows no signs of increase, the fraction of its population doing research is much smaller when compared to comparable or larger economies, and the quality of its research output is not great. This is a grim reality when it has been quantifiably demonstrated that investment in scientific research brings both short and long term economic benefits to a country [see, for example, 4 and 5]. And by research, I mean fundamental scientific research. A push towards doing only applied and mission-driven research that was a result of large budget cuts last year to Indias largest R and D organisation, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), is not going to improve things in any way.

Maybe in order to improve we should get back to the basicsschool and university education. Quantitatively the percentage of Indias adult population with higher educational attainment has increased from 2.6 per cent in 1983-84 to 8.15 per cent in 2009-10.6

But what about quality? No Indian university or institute has made it to the top 200 in the latest Times Higher Education rankings.7 And India simply refuses to participate in the Programme for International Student Assess-ment8 which tests 15-year-old students from all over the world in reading, mathematics and science, after Indian students performed miserably in it.

I can dig deeper and throw up more statistics regarding the quality of schooling that an average Indian student receives, a depressing exercise which has already been done by people much more competent than me and is out there for any interested person to look up. And I did not even come to the ever-present elephant in the roomthe effect of caste on who ends up getting a chance of becoming a researcher in India. Just to give one statistic, between 1983-84 and 2009-10 higher educational attainment for adults belonging to the Scheduled Castes increased from 0.6 per cent to 3.9 per cent, and Scheduled Tribes from 0.55 per cent to 2.8 per cent.6 This, in spite of the policy of affirmative action (reservations), is being introduced for enrolment in higher education. Compare these numbers to the numbers for the entire adult population of India for the same period mentioned above, and the fact that people belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes comprise more than a quarter of Indias population. There also existsa religious divide, with the higher educational attainment within Muslims changing from around 1.5 per cent to 3.8 per cent during the same period, when Muslims constitute roughly 14 per cent of Indias population.

So to add to the fact that there is no effort to increase investment in research and enhance the number of researchers, we find that our school and university education is not up to the mark for creating future researchers, and due to caste and religious faultlines we are not tapping into a large fraction of the talent pool. Without improvement in R and D, we will stand by while other nations will march past us in terms of economic development and overall societal progress.

As a nation we will be left miserably ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of a fast- changing world, that is, dealing with climate change, use of genetic engineering, use of intelligent machines for betterment of industry and society, tapping into the resources to be found in the Moon and Mars, to name just a few. We need to start a debate about the future of research in our country and make it an issue in the domain of public consciousness. Sadly there does not seem to be any concerted effort to do this either by the government or the media, both of whom satisfy themselves with rare achievements like Chandrayaan-2 which are few and far betweenand will become even rarer if the present state of affairs is allowed to continue.


1. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/GB.XPD. RSDV.GD.ZS

2. https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/research-and-development-expenditure-of-gdp~

3. https://www.scimagojr.com/countryrank.php~

4. Science economics: What science is really worth Colin Macilwain, Nature 2010.

5. Rates of return to investment in science and innovation Frontier Economics, 2014.

6. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0049085715574178~

7. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/2020/world-ranking~

8. http://www.oecd.org/pis

The author, a Ph.D. in astronomy from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, whose research area is far distant and faint galaxies,did research studies at the Max Plank Institute, Germany. He is now ona post-doc assisgnment at the Swinburne Instutute, Melbourne. He can be contacted ate-mail: sambit.rc[at]gmail.com

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The Interest around Chandrayaan-2 hides the Gloomy Future of Research in (...) - Mainstream

Highlights from ARTBO 2019, the Colombian Art Fair, and Beyond – Cultured Magazine

Art that offers a reflection on sociopolitical issuesfrom climate change to instability and authoritarianismwas everywhere in Bogot this fall, as the 15th annual ARTBO art fair opened in the Colombian capital. I think art has a possibility of creating or nurturing citizens and individuals that are more sensitive, or more critical, and have the capacity to put themselves in someone elses shoes, said ARTBO director Mara Paz Gaviria when the fair opened last week. I dont believe that art has a particular role in society, I just strongly believe in the possibility of the arts, and what it can express about society, and about our conflicts. So, with that in mind, heres our pick of the standout artists at the fair, and at the National Salon of Artists show, which runs concurrently at museums around Bogot until November.

Carolina Caycedos Apariciones at the National Salon of ArtistsThis nine-and-a-half-minute film by Los Angeles-based Colombian artist Carolina Caycedo is featured in the National Salon of Artists and is on display until November 3 at MAMBO, the Bogot Museum of Modern Art. For the film, Caycedo stages a series of encounters between indigenous and Afro-Latino dancers and the spaces of LAs Huntington Library and Gardens. Its a beautiful work about colonialism, hierarchies of information, the naivet of trying to organize the world, and the rebellion of the past. The dancers move through the institution like ghosts from past worlds; or the physical embodiment of traditions of knowledge that arent yet archived, performing rituals of joy and divination.If youd like to see more, the artist talks about this piece in a video produced for the Huntington here.

A still from Manuel Correas La Forma del Presente (The Shape of Now).

Manuel Correas La Forma del Presente (The Shape of Now) at ARTBOOne of the standout works of ARTBO was presented in the fairs Artecmara section for emerging Colombian artists. London-based, Medelln-born Manuel Correas 70-minute documentary The Shape of Now is about the conflict that has raged in Colombia since the 1960s between the government, guerrillas including the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and drug cartels, which has claimed an estimated 260,000 lives, and the ensuing peace process. Correas film is about how historical memory is constructed, and depicts the human need to define past events in order to move on from them. He follows survivors of war, ex-combatants from all sides, professors, scientists, a photojournalist and a peace negotiator as they wrestle with what has taken place, and with the nature of truth itself. Certain scenes are so surreallike a group of mothers of the disappeared who travel to prisons to perform plays about the conflict for audiences that include some of the same fighters who may have taken their sonsthat they merit comparison to the 2012 documentary about Indonesian war crimes The Act of Killing. The film is also memorable for a logician who explains how truth exists beyond binary categories, and for neuroscientists who attempt to study ex-combatantss levels of empathy by attaching electrodes to their heads and asking them questions like, When you watch a movie, do you identify with the protagonist?

Teresa Margolless Chircalero en un pozo de Juan Fro. Courtesy of the artist and mor charpentier.

Teresa Margolless Chircalero en un pozo de Juan Fro at mor charpentier gallery at ARTBOConceptual artist Teresa Margolles examines the causes and consequences of violence in her works, with a particular emphasis on death and the body. Born in Mexico, she originally trained as a pathologist and holds a degree in forensic medicine and science communication from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Both forensics and communicationespecially the need to speak for those who have been silencedare key themes in her work. This photograph, titled Chircalero en un pozo de Juan Fro, or Brickmaker in a well at Juan Fro, depicts a moment in the production of 3,000 clay bricks when and holds up a shroud that has been soaking in the water. The shroud was used to cover the bodies of people killed in recent violence on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, and the bricks were fired in a kiln in the border town of Juan Fro, where guerrillas previously incinerated the bodies of war victims. This chircalero, like the dead, stays invisible behind his shroud.

Adriana Bustoss Burning Books IXII. Courtesy of Galera Nora Fisch.

Adriana Bustoss Burning Books IX at at ARTBOArgentinian artist Adriana Bustoss process is heavily informed by research, and her work often incorporates found images she uncovers from various archives. By placing these images in new contexts, Bustos generates new meanings, and she often returns to themes of the construction of femininity, science and rationalism versus magical thinking and the censorship of ideas. In her Burning Books series, she painstakingly draws and places on bookshelveswhich she identifies by searching library records for suppressed titles. The resulting work questions the limits and consequences of censorship.

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Highlights from ARTBO 2019, the Colombian Art Fair, and Beyond - Cultured Magazine

How Far to Hope: A Review of Oslo at TimeLine Theatre Company and Broadway In Chicago – Newcity Stage


When the world is, as it is now, in a state of complete disarray and chaos, the impulse to say Dont worry, things will get better, can potentially come off as naive or privileged or foolish or just downright incorrect. Call it cynicism, call it rationalism, call it being just plain realistic. Seeking hope in a hopeless world just doesnt seem as possible these days.

Not impossible, mind you. Just less possible. Theres a difference.

Moving on, though: lets talk about historical fiction.

The creation and presentation of a work that reflects on a previous historical event has many intentional and unintentional purposes. It works as document of that event, especially if it is from a lesser-known historical perspective. It also works as a means of creating engagement with a history that otherwise might not have been: we are naturally drawn towards narrative and conflict. Finding a means to further inject these values into a piece of history only increases our engagement with the events.

But the unintendedor perhaps secretly intendedrepercussions of a historical drama can be to show how Not Good/Very Bad things used to be while highlighting Just How Far Weve Come since the event in question. Something like the movie Green Book comes to mind, a recent example of how 1960s racism was a Much Worse Racism and shouldnt we be happy that things are So Much Better Now? I mean, things are better now, right?

Oslo, J.T. Rogers Tony-Award winning play about the back-channel negotiations of the Oslo Accords in 1993, isnt that naive. It is true that, in recounting the gripping events of how Norwegian diplomats Mona Juul (a superb Bri Sudia) and Terje Rd-Larsen (a charming Scott Parkinson) brought together representatives from the Israeli Government and the Palestine Liberation Organization to begin peace discussions, you get the sense this is indeed going to be a play about a monumental event that shaped history and made everything Good, Again. But by the end of its almost three-hour running time, the play (and especially director Nick Bowlings production of it) is fully aware that, no, things are not So Much Better Now. There is still a major Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are still governments acting maliciously and innocent people being murdered and a conflict between two peoples being weaponized by external forces for political gain. And there is seemingly no end in sight to it all.

Again, seemingly. Not impossible. Just less possible.

The play, produced by TimeLine Theatre Company and Broadway In Chicago, has been brought to Chicago in a practically seamless production, navigating a thirteen-actor ensemble through a cavalcade of scenes: mostly people talking in rooms or talking over the phone or talking outside in the snow. Theres a lot of talking. But the good kind! The kind that reminds you Yes, this is a play, and plays are about people talking, and the talking is engaging and good. Oslo navigates within the confines of what we have traditionally been told is a plays function to exceedingly excellent results. What it lacks in boundary-breaking format, it makes up for in detailed performances, sharp writing and expert craftsmanship.

Jeffrey Kmiecs barebones set combined with with Mike Tutajs subtle projections do a great job of transporting us to a myriad of locations. Christine Pascuals costumes are as dignified or as frumpy as the character wearing them warrants. Andre Pluess music is gripping and provides plenty of forward momentum. Jesse Klugs lights are specific and clear. Its a well-packaged clean production about an inherently messy topic. The dissonance is certainly not lost.

Oslo stands as a beacon of possibility in a world where that is not always a guarantee. Its final momentscemented by Sudias reticence to accept a happy endingmay just bring you close to tears. This desire for hope within hopelessness is just one piece of the puzzle of our world. To see Oslo is certainly not an invitation to start and finish ones engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict then and there. Your work is never done, as well it shouldnt be. But it begs you to consider, in the smallest way, that peace is possible. That hope is possible.

We were not there in 1993. We are not there now.But the possibility. The possibility is there. Somewhere. Do you see it? (Ben Kaye)

TimeLine Theatre Company and Broadway In Chicago at Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 East Chestnut, broadwayinchicago.com, $35-$95. Through October 20.

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How Far to Hope: A Review of Oslo at TimeLine Theatre Company and Broadway In Chicago - Newcity Stage

Hitler the Progressive | Peter Hitchens – First Things

Has the mass murder of Europes Jews eclipsed the other significant horrors of Hitlers Germany? Does it matter? And is it possible to address this without being accused by the thought police of belittling the Holocaust? Let me try.

These questions are raised in the greatest film released in the past year, Never Look Away. Made by the aristocrat Florian von Donnersmarck, the director who created the masterpiece The Lives of Others, it has yet to attract the cult following rightly achieved by his first major work. I think it ought to.It is beautiful, immensely powerful, and packed with thoughts about goodness, the temptations of power and evil, and the nature of art.The films depictions of the morally complicated yet triumphant birth of a baby amid misery and ruin, and of the cynical use of abortion in a fathers evil attempt to end his daughters love affair, are firmly on the side of humanity, and should be treasured in their own right.

At the heart of the story is a Dickensian mystery of unrevealed guilt, quite unbelievable but based upon a true story. The original evil act destroys a beautiful young woman, suffering from some unknown mental illness, who is caught by Hitlers eugenics program. Even if you think you know about this sordid corner of National Socialism, which begins with steely pseudo-rationalism and ends in rank murder, the relatively gentle portrayal of this crime and the others happening alongside it will greatly shock and distress you.But it, and other elements of this film, ought also to waken the consciences of many on the self-described progressive left.

For these progressives, the Nazi era has been both a sort of moral scripture and a source of certainties.With increasing force since the 1970s, the left has managed to associate the Hitler period with the political and moral right. Here, they insist, is every aspect of conservatism in full power. Behold, they say, the evils which follow from conservative thought, from love of country and martial strength. See here how the ideas behind immigration controls or sexual conservatism also lead inescapably to the Yellow Star and the Pink Triangle, the death camp, the gas chamber, and the crematorium.

Above all, when it studies the mass murder of Europes Jews it can assert with relief that nothing of this kind stains our hygienic and enlightened society, which put an end to everything of this sort nearly eighty years ago. Indeed, we all can assert thiswhich is interesting given that many conservative European societies, whatever their faults, never engaged in racial mass murder and in many cases bravely resisted and frustrated it when it was imposed on them by occupying invaders.

This fact complicates the simple logic which has permitted so many liberals, for so long, to cry Fascist! at conservatives, and so silence and marginalize them. It might cause the more intelligent progressives to consider, with a little more care, what National Socialism actually was. If it was what they say it was, why was it so hostile to the Christian church, a body which modern liberals tend to see as a force for conservatism?And why did Nazis and Communists cooperate, most spectacularly in that great ignored spasm of cynicism, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939the most astonishing political event of the twentieth century and the least known?

We are told that Stalin did it out of bitter necessity, to buy time, and that there was no true friendship or alliance in it.The awkward truth is that it was far warmer than that. There was a joint Nazi-Soviet victory parade in Brest Litovsk. Everyone in the pictures of this event looks happy (the unhappy people had already been shot or locked up). And the Soviet NKVD secret police, the essence of Communism, the sword and shield of the Communist Party,then staged a prisoner exchange with Hitlers Gestapo, likewise the very core of National Socialist fervor. If you admit these things, then you are in historical trouble, and it is trouble which the film Never Look Away helps to foment.

For some background it is worth turning to Julia Boyds fascinating Travellers in the Third Reich. This work is unusual in that it discusses just how similar Communism and National Socialism were, in some respects.She quotes Denis de Rougemont, a Christian Swiss writer and cultural theorist.De Rougemont began by thinkingthat Hitlers state was a regime of the right. But during a lengthy stay in Frankfurt as a visiting professor, he found himself involuntarily questioning this. What unsettled him, writes Boyd, was the fact that those who stood most naturally on the rightlawyers, doctors, industrialists and so onwere the very ones who most bitterly denounced National Socialism. Far from being a bulwark against Communism, they complained,it was itself communism in disguise [my emphasis].

De Rougemont recounted: They pointed out that only workers and peasants benefited from Nazi reforms, while their own values were being systematically destroyed by devious methods. They were taxed disproportionately, their family life had been irreparably harmed, parental authority sapped, religion stripped and education eliminated.

A lawyers wife complained to him, Every evening my two children are taken over by the Party. This experience was not all that different from what was happening at the same time to the children of Soviet parents.The Nazis, being utopian fanatics more concerned with the future than the present, were prepared to pay quite a high price for taking over the minds of the young. As Thomas Manns daughter Erika pointed out in her excoriating book on the subject, School for Barbarians, the quality of education was gravely damaged under the Hitler regime, which (as left-wing regimes also often do) promoted or protected bad but politically acceptable teachers, and polluted the teaching of all arts and historical subjects. It believed it was more urgent to teach the young what to think than to show them how to think.

Hitler himself taunted his opponents for their powerlessness against him. They might rage at him as much as they liked, but When an opponent declares I will not come over to your side I say calmly Your child belongs to us already . . . What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing but this new community. He was so nearly right.

As for the defeated left, a startling number of them came over to the new camp almost immediately. De Rougemont spoke to a renegade Communist who had switched sides and joined the Hitlerites, who said,

National Socialism was egalitarian and horribly modern. It sided with children against parents and (often) teachers. It built super-highways, gigantic holiday camps, space rockets, and jet engines. It planned to create mass car ownershipthough tanks, in the end, came first.In military matters it was open to the newest ideas and encouraged innovation and initiative. It poured resources into the movie industry, developed television, and sponsored a type of Godless modern architecture which can still be seen in the Berlin Olympic Stadium and the remnants of the Nuremberg parade grounds.Its leaders embraced sexual freedom.

And then there were Hitlers eugenics schemes, portrayed so heartbreakingly in Never Look Away. These were conducted in public at the beginning, and even endorsed by noisy propaganda campaigns in the media. And they were far from unique: Nazi Germany, in this case, was following the democracies.Hitlers eugenics squads began in ways that the rest of the world (at the time) could not easily object to. Compulsory sterilization of the supposedly mentally unfit was introduced in Germany a few months after National Socialism came to power. But several free and enlightened countriesincluding Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.S.had also permitted it in various forms, and would in some cases carry on doing so into our own era.

It was a progressive cause, embraced at the time by the progressives progressive, H. G. Wells. Marie Stopes, the great apostle of contraception in interwar Britain, was alsolike many among the progressives of the timea keen eugenicist.In 1935, she attended a Congress for Population Science in Nazi Berlin. In August 1939, she even sent Hitler a volume of her dreadful poems, accompanied by a treacly epistle about love. Yet all this has been forgotten amid continuing progressive admiration for Marie Stopess embrace ofwhat are nowadays known as reproductive rights. Marie Stopes International, a powerful and flourishing modern organization, still bears her name as it campaigns for and defends those reproductive rights.

Am I saying (someone will accuse me of this) that modern abortion and contraception campaigners are Nazis, or inheritors of Nazis?Certainly not. I regard any such claim as ridiculous rubbishas ridiculous as the claim that modern patriotic conservatives, skeptical about mass immigration, are Nazis or inheritors of Nazis.

My point is wholly different.It is that all ideas must be argued on their merits, and that all attempts to establish guilt by association should be regarded with suspicion. And that those who wish to use the Hitler era as a way of depriving others of legitimacy should understand that this period, precisely because it cast aside therestraints of Christian morality and duty, liberated many ideas from ancient, sometimes despised limits which turned out, in the end,to be wise and kind.

Peter Hitchensis a columnist for theMail on Sunday.

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Hitler the Progressive | Peter Hitchens - First Things

CULTURE Florence Tennis Club – The Florentine


Deirdre Pirro

September 18, 2019 - 16:19

Originally the largest park in Florence, the Cascine was a Medici hunting and farming estate, which passed to the grand duchy of Lorraine with the death of the last Medici in 1737. Although it had occasionally been open to the public for special events during the 18th century, it only became an actual public park during the brief reign of Elisa Baciocchi, grand duchess of Tuscany and Napoleons sister; it continued to be so after the City of Florence acquired the property in 1869. By the late 19th century, the 18 hectares of woods, tall trees, shady paths and lawns became a place where the townsfolk strolled, who gained easy access to the green space between 1880 and 1897 thanks to Florences original tramway, which linked the Cascine and the city centre (much like todays tram to Scandicci). It was the place to see and be seen, especially among the aristocracy and the ex-pat community. Even Queen Victoria in her carriage could often be seen there when on holiday in Florence.

TheCascine quickly became the ideal setting for ex-pats, nostalgic for the sports and pastimes they enjoyed back home; here they sought to recreate them. The first race horse meeting was held in the park in 1852 at the racecourse organized by the fabulously rich Russian count Anatole Demidoff and the Societ Anonima Fiorentina. In 1859, a shooting range was created, followed several years later by clay pigeon shooting facilities, and in 1870, a club of velocipedists, or speed cyclists, was inaugurated, using a flat dirt track until, in 1894, it was transformed into what is still the concrete velodrome for bike races.

With 30 founding members, some Florentine and others English, the Florence Tennis Club was founded in 1898, the fifth club to become part of the Italian Lawn Tennis Association established in 1894. Games were initially played on the grass until two clay courts were built. At the time, nets, posts, rackets and other equipment were furnished by the Anglo-American Supply Stores in via Cavour. The mens dress code on court was modelled on the English cricket style, whereas for womenclub membership was open to them from the very beginningthe required style was rigidly Victorian, meaning they were encumbered to play in long skirts, tight bodices and vexatious hats. Tournaments were held for men from 1900 and for women from 1902, when Florence became the first club in Italy to allow women to compete. In fact, a cup is dedicated to Rhoda de Bellegarde de Saint Lary, a club member and the winner of the first and second Italian womens championships in 1913 and 1914. She would die of Spanish flu in 1918 while serving as a Red Cross nurse during World War I.

The classical, red brick, then single-storied, clubhouse with its white door and window frames was designed by architect Pietro Berti and gifted to the club by the wealthy industrialist and first president, Count Giovanni Cosimo Cini, in 1900. There, in May 1910, representatives from the 12 most important Italian tennis clubs met and inaugurated the Italian Tennis Federation, voting in Florence club member Piero Antinori as president.

Over the years, the public has been entertained with tournaments featuring many Italian champions like Nicola Pietrangeli, Lea Pericoli and Adriano Panatta, in addition to international stars including Ille Nastase, Vitas Gerulaitis and Roy Emerson. Five Davis Cup challenges (in 1933 with Yugoslavia, 1958 with India, 1959 with South Africa, 1962 with Russia, and 1993 with Australia) were contested on the Florentine courts and, since 1976, the International City of Florence Juniors Tournament has been held there at Easter every year, whose winners include Jennifer Capriati and Roger Federer.

In November 2003, the Florence Tennis Club joined the prestigious Association of Centenary Tennis Clubs, one of the 7 Italian clubs and only 79 clubs worldwide that are over 100 years old. Today, this verdant and tranquil oasis comprises 560 members, 10 red clay courts, two padel (a cross between tennis and squash) courts and a football pitch. The mens and womens changing rooms are in the clubhouse, although the small wooden hut used for that purpose when the club first opened can still be seen on the grounds. The clubhouse also houses two card rooms and a reading room with a bar.

In the 1950s, a glass-enclosed restaurant was added and, during the summer, another restaurant is open near the swimming pool built in 1939 by Gherardo Bosio, a major exponent of Italian rationalism architecture. A well-equipped gym and sauna were made available to members in 2011. Professional tennis coaches teach courses, from beginners to advanced, for youths and adults from September until June, while summer camps are organised for children and adolescents between the ages of 4 to 16.

From July 18 to 21, 2019, the Florence Tennis Club proudly hosted the 7th International City of Florence Wheelchair Tournament with about 40 competitors from Italy, Malaysia, Australia, Colombia, France, Austria, Spain, England, Turkey and China, an important date on the international calendar for disabled athletes and for the city. Prior to this, the Florence Club hosted two national wheelchair tournaments in 2011 and 2012, as well as an earlier international wheelchair tournament in 2013.

This month, excitement among spectators is already mounting as tennis fans flock to the Cascine to watch the revived second edition of the Florence Tennis Cup Tuscan Airports Trophy, as part of the ATP Challenger Tour. From September 23 to 29, the tournament will take place at the Florence Tennis Club with national and international players vying for 75,000 dollars in hospitality and prize money.

With 30 founding members, some Florentine and others English, the Florence Tennis Club was founded in 1898, the fifth club to become part of the Italian Lawn Tennis Association established in 1894.

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CULTURE Florence Tennis Club - The Florentine

Wicked! Modern Art’s Interest in the Occult – frieze.com

The resurgence of interest in magic today in art, popular culture and ritual practices is not without precedent: the occult has faded in and out of the cultural arena for more than a century, its seeds a feeling of lack and longing, from the development of Wicca after World War II to the esoteric counterculture of the 1960s. We can recognize this desire in our current moment steeped in advanced capitalism, swift gentrification and right-wing political gains in which magic holds the promise of connection and empowerment. It was also palpable in the 19th century, the setting of the first widespread occult revival since the Christianization of Europe, early-modern witch hunts and the so-called age of reason. It flourished in Europe, and France in particular, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We can trace many current magical practices back to this time, from an occult use of the tarot to neopagan worship that identifies the triple goddess with the phases of the moon. Modern art, psychology and feminism also have their roots in this period, along with the monumental socio-economic effects of modernization.The face of Europe changed irrevocably: railways were vastly extended, suburbs sprouted factories and cities towered upwards, their narrow streets expanding into boulevards. Positivist science also ascended through these conditions, bolstered by the quick development and profitability of new industrial technologies. Yet, the dark side of technological progress isoften disillusionment, and it is in this sense of longing and decay that we can trace the beginnings of the belle-poque occult revival.

Like so many facets of modern life, the first seeds were sown during the 178999 French Revolution. Unleashing bloodshed and terror in the name of reason, its idealism soaring to hysterical heights, the revolution undermined its own guiding principles. The hegemony of rationalism so central to European thought since the Enlightenment was further eroded in subsequent decades, ina climate of conflict and unrest that saw the Napoleonic wars of180315, the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, and the short-lived, brutally supressed Paris Commune, an insurgent government that ruled from 18 March to 28 May 1871. (This thread ofdissent would be taken up by the Dadaists inthe 20th century, in response to the atrocities of World War I.) Traditional Christianity, too, was in profound crisis. Its worldview circumscribed to binaries of good and evil, spirit and body, culture and nature was increasingly seen as overly simplistic in the context of a complex, tumultuous universe.

The renewed interest in occultism was driven by a search for alternatives and origins, for a world that holds both chaos and coherence, its rhymes echoing through dimensions, its rhythms hinting at key truths. Movements that were founded in the 19th century, or which saw an upsurge in popularity, include Theosophy, Rosicrucianism, Martinism, Freemasonry, Gnosticism and neo-Catharism as well as local groups such as Londons Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. In art and literature, these ideas were taken up by the Symbolists: a loosely affiliated, international movement that flourished from the 1880s to the 1910s, particularly in Paris. Symbolist artists were not active practitioners of magic; their interest was rather in evoking the spiritual an elusive notion, perennially difficult to define, which was understood in contrast to the prevailing materialism of the time. In this sense, the movement can be seen, in part, as areaction to Impressionism, whose concerns were more formal, based on fleeting sensory impressions and grounded in everyday life. (Which is not to say that they were superficial: see Berthe Morisots incisive portraits of her sister Edna and Mary Cassatts studies of child subjectivity.)

For the Symbolists, esoteric knowledge was a means of accessing the scope of the mind and the quintessence beyond appearances. And fin-de-sicle Paris had no shortage of material: Edmond Baillys Librairie de lart indpendant (Bookshop of Independent Art), established in 1888, became a central meeting point for Symbolist artists and writers and for the discussion of occult topics, while Lucien Chamuels Librairie du merveilleux (Bookshop of the Marvellous) was popular with mystics and scholars. Theosophy was particularly influential. Founded by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and her colleagues in New York in 1875, the Theosophical Society aimed to distil common elements from the worlds religions and esoteric traditions and establish an essential, universal understanding. The idea of fundamental principles that could bridge East and West, Christ and the Buddha, was immensely attractive to a number of artists particularly in a context of colonial expansion, which aroused interest in similarities as well as in differences. The artist Odilon Redon was amongst those who frequented Baillys bookshop. Engaged in Theosophy particularly douard Schurs comparative studies of religious prophets as well as Buddhist and Indian philosophy, Redon realized numerous depictions of religious figures that evade traditional iconography and narratives. He focused instead on themes of light, death and introspection, as in The Death of Buddha (c.1899) and The Sacred Heart (The Buddha) (c.1906), which was closely based on an 1895 drawing the artist had made of Christ and thenrenamed.

It is interesting to note that both Symbolism and Theosophy claimed an affinity with science. While they rejected the sway of strict positivism founded on observation and quantifiable evidence they believed that the spiritual was one part of a definite truth and that their investigations chimed with a more encompassing science. Indeed, as Nadia Choucha writes in Surrealism & the Occult (1991), occultists often looked to scientific discoveries as proof of their own beliefs. Thus, the fourth dimension, first described by Charles Howard Hinton in his 1880 article What Is the Fourth Dimension?, supported the idea of the astral plane, while 20th-century physicists corroborated an understanding of the universe as fundamentally fluid and chaotic from Albert Einsteins theory of relativity to Werner Heisenbergs uncertainty principle and Henri Bergsons writings on multiple planes and the limits of sensory perception. Evolution and the search for biological origins, which occupied scientists from the 1860s onwards, also inspired both occultists and artists not as a sterile process of natural selection, but as a font of endless variety and wonder, which speaks to the creative energies at the foundations of life. We can read Redons self-described monsters in this light, most explicitly in Origins, a lithographic series from 1883. These creatures explore the fantastical possibilities of lifes genetic code, stemming from the artists studies of comparative anatomy and embryology, as well as from his close friendship with the plant physiologist Armand Clavaud, whose research on algae, Redon notes in Artists Secrets (1913), searched [] at the edge of the imperceptible world, for that life which lies between plant and animal.1 In one image from Origins, a flower gazes upwards, plush lashes forming petals, its pistil a round, open eye (Was It Upon a Flower That Nature First Attempted toBestow Sight?). Spirit of the Forest (1890) also explores the rhymes between plant and human life: its skeletal form crackles with vitality, as roots extend from its knotted leg bones and branches sprout from the base of its head (thelocation of the cerebellum chakra, or well of dreams, in Tantricthought).

Redons monsters underline a key idea in the history of art and magic: that the most original, compelling works often look to our foundations, rather than lofty, distant truths. While Symbolist art was frequently dismissed as being escapist and overly literary and largely still is today its focus on the dark, irrational aspects of our nature profoundly influenced the course of modern art, informing Surrealism in particular. (This interest was later echoed by Sigmund Freud, who would investigate the psychological drives and aberrations beyond social conditioning in his 1905 book, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality.) A crucial source for these artists, and indeed for many modern ideas on magic, were the theories of the French occultist liphas Lvi, who emphasized the essential unity of opposites: of light and dark, positive and negative, masculine and feminine. In the frontispiece to his 185456 Dogma and Ritual of High Magic, Lvi illustrated this notion in an image of the deity Baphomet: an androgynous figure, both animal and human, winged and hoofed, which points towards the white moon of Chesed (mercy) and the black moon of Geburah (justice or severity).2 That Lvis Baphomet was widely misidentified as the Christian Devil speaks to the prevalence of a rigidly dualistic worldview. His idea went hand in hand with a renewed interest in archaic paganism, particularly in the creative and destructive energies of ancient Greek and Roman goddesses. Marvellous, elemental, indifferent to death, joy and suffering, the idea of daemonic power was the most potent opposition to a rational, materialist order; as Celia Rabinovitch writes in Surrealism and the Sacred (2002): With its connections to energy and eros, [the daemonic] remained the most subversive element of archaic thought that had survived throughout Western intellectualhistory.3

That such a concept of the goddess would undergird a new, more complex understanding of femininity is one of the most enduring and fascinating legacies of the 19th-century occult revival. Of course, this renewed archetype wasvery much of its time, emerging as an antidote to the rigidity and decay of an industrial, patriarchal society and mired in the anxieties of this context. This ambivalence is palpable inthe works of numerous Symbolist artists and, indeed, these images are widely credited with having introduced the figure of the femme fatale. Often appearing as a powerful, mythical figure or a hybrid creature such as the sphinx, harpy or chimera itself a manifestation of mutable, chthonic power the femme fatale intertwines death and sexuality, invoking our most immediate impressions of destruction and creation. Fernand Khnopffs painting The Caresses (1896) belongs to this repertoire: an image of affection and obsession, in which the sphinx embraces anandrogynous Oedipus, her indulgent expression at odds with her tensed, possessive bearing. The erotic, commanding female figure also appears in several works by Gustave Moreau, whose 1864 Oedipus and the Sphinx inspired Khnopffs canvas. Moreaus The Apparition (187677) is one of the most recognizable images of the femme fatale, depicting a semi-nude, bejewelled Salome conjuring the gruesome head of John the Baptist, the rich, red tones of his encrusted, streaming blood echoed in her sumptuous robe.

Such images are, ultimately, indicative ofwomens emancipation: an insistent topic by the mid-19th century, which saw the first wave of feminism. And, certainly, the resounding tone of a revived interest in the figure of the goddess in the 19th century and today is one of empowerment. That Symbolist artists were overwhelmingly male is a curious point, given that women were central to the occult revival, from Blavatsky to the influential women of the Golden Dawn and female mediums. (Itshould be noted that Impressionism, which was contemporaneous with Symbolism, was agender-equal movement.) Representationsby women that engage with the occult and the chthonic are more readily found amongst theSurrealists, whowere deeply influenced by Symbolism. Whereas artists such as Khnopff and Moreau drew on established iconographies, the Surrealists created new mythologies, linking primordial energies to the creativity ofthe unconscious. In Andr Bretons writings, notably Nadja (1928), woman represents this force through her connection to procreation, dreams and the underworld. For the female artists associated with Surrealism, this ideal was no doubt a burden, stifling them with the laurels of the muse. Yet, in their own art, occultism stimulated novel explorations of nature, creation and subjectivity. These works do not tend towards a facile identification of womanhood with creative power. Mret Oppenheims The Green Spectator (One Who Watches While Someone Dies) (1933/59), for instance, portrays nature as a dispassionate, cyclical force, its pared-down, columnar form both human and snake-like, its materials copper and wood painted to resemble serpentine signalling its primal origins: the underground world of the serpent.4

For Leonora Carrington, occultism inspired a penetrating personal iconography that is formally brilliant. The artist was fascinated by Celtic mythology, the folklore of Mexico (where she settled in 1942, after fleeing Europe) and modern occult theory, notably Robert Gravess 1948 book-length essay on myths, The White Goddess the greatest revelation of my life5 which articulated the Celtic triple goddess as Maiden, Mother and Crone: The New Moon is the white goddess of birth and growth; the Full Moon, the red goddess of love and battle; the Old Moon, the black goddess of death and divination. In Carringtons painting The House Opposite (1945), the three goddesses tend the cauldron of a sprawling, cosmic home: ametaphor for life and the self, with each space a threshold to the next. Their hearth sits in theunderworld, a sapphire spring and two egg-shaped chickens at their feet: symbols of the alchemical egg, the prima materia at the origin oflife. Death visits the room above, sucking out the soul of a supine figure, while, in the next space, a woman sits bolt upright inbed, as if waking from a nightmare. Memory and dream reside in the water-filled glade below, where awoman sobs beside a rocking horse arecurring image in Carringtons work, recalling a toy from her lonely, restricted childhood. The creature is unbridledinthe dining hall, where awoman eats at the table, her white hair resembling a mane, her shadow a horse. Perhaps she is Rhiannon, the Celtic lunar goddess of art, transformation and rebirth. A woman who found an affinity between the studio, kitchen and alchemical laboratory, Carrington uses the home as ametaphor for magical thinking, uniting decay and regeneration, life and the imagination.

This article first appeared in Frieze Masters issue 8 with the headline The Other Side.

Main image:Leonora Carrington, TheHouse Opposite (detail), 1945, temperaonboard, 33 82 cm. Courtesy: West Dean CollegeofArts andConservation

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Wicked! Modern Art's Interest in the Occult - frieze.com

Professor Aggasiz – Letter | Falmouth Opinion – CapeNews.net

Two letters to the Enterprise about the 19th century scientist Louis Aggasiz state opposite views on whether a man of his stature, whose research was tainted by racist ideas, should be honored today. Ruth Gainer says he should not be, while Frank Messman mockingly dismisses people like her who, in the name of political correctness, accuse Aggasiz of Bad Think.

Mr. Messman defends Aggasizs racism as typical of his time, the mid-19th century, and then indulges a typical right-wing what about. He argues that Washington and Jefferson owned slaves, also typical of their time, ignoring the fact that they were from an earlier generation, and their roles as plantation owners, and as public men who led a revolution that established the American democratic republic, were manifestly different from Aggasizs role as a scientist.

The plantation economy in the American South, before the Civil War, depended on slave labor, not as something Washington or Jefferson devised but which had been the primary source of plantation labor in the Americas since the early 1500s. They inherited plantations along with slaves from their fathers, and were part of a wider economy that exploited slave labor, including Yankee ship owners who brought captured Africans to America, bankers who financed the ship owners, and textile mill owners who bought cotton picked by slaves.

These facts do not apologize for slavery, but indict a much broader spectrum of the post-revolutionary American economy than just the southern plantation owners. Meanwhile, Washington freed his slaves in his will, while Jefferson came to view slavery as a moral depravity, a hideous blot on the newly created American republic he helped create and largely defined. The views of both men on the peculiar institution of slavery had evolved and changed with the times.

Aggasiz held onto his racial theories through the end of his life, in 1870, long after the views of most Americans in the North had changed, and a war had been fought to establish Jeffersons principle that all men are created equal. Aggasizs professional work was done independently, through science purporting to explain the natural world, and Ms. Gainer condemns him for misuse of science to push his racist ideas, but it was not quite that simple.

Aggasiz was an ardent critic of Darwins theory of evolution, described by one biographer as someone who clung to a vision of well-ordered nature assembled by special creations. It is thus equally likely that Aggasizs science was corrupted by his pre-existing belief in Judeo-Christian creation mythology as it was on racismchicken or eggbut equally at odds with scientific rationalism. Aggasiz did, however, exploit racist ideas that were common in his time, using racial differences in morphology to support his theory of separate evolution of the races.

Ms. Gainer rightly condemns Aggasiz for allowing his science to be corrupted by a priori religious beliefs, and for exploiting racial differences to support his theories. Still, he ran a summer academy for marine biology on Penikese, which in part served as the impetus for basing the MBL in Woods Hole. For that reason only, his name should remain on a street in the village that now harbors several of the most-prominent scientific institutions in the world. So, Mr. Messman is right in a way, but for all the wrong reasons.

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Professor Aggasiz - Letter | Falmouth Opinion - CapeNews.net

Living with ALS: The Three S’s of life Spontaneity, Serendipity and… – Communities Digital News

CHARLOTTE, NC: Some of the most joyful moments in life occur at times when an unanticipated series of events align themselves to create memories that can never quite be explained and certainly never be duplicated. It is the Spontaneity, Serendipity, Synchronicity of life.

In the simplest of terms, most of us would refer to them as you had to be there moments.

We have all had them, and no manner of explanation or retelling of the events can ever completely replicate the pleasure of the experience by the participants.

Perhaps another, deeper and more philosophical, way to put it is to call it the Three Ss: Spontaneity, Serendipity, and Synchronicity.

In their own way, each of this trio of phenomena is related.

Over the years, I have come to revel in the serendipity of travel as one of the driving forces for my wanderlust passion. It lies deep within my psyche and growth as a person in ways I could never have fully attained in a classroom or a book.

For me, the classroom and books come after the experience in ways that serve to reinforce what I have discovered and promise to further arouse my curiosity.

No matter who we are, it is the anticipation of such events that create the excitement of a journey before we ever take the first step out of the front door. The sensation is much the same that football fans experience before the Super Bowl.

All too often, the game is not able to live up to its billing because the hype diminishes the reality of the expectations.

Likewise, travel is also filled with unpredictability and possibilities. However, unlike sports, an entire destination becomes the product rather than the limitations of a finite playing field. Thus, the opportunities for unique and awe-inspiring occurrences are enhanced and magnified by the destination.

One of my high school classmates, who is also someone whose life has been broadened by travel, describes serendipity as those delicious random mysteries that appear like magic in our lives.

While those are some pretty heavy-duty words, Jung simplified their meaning with the following example:

I was sitting opposite (a patient) one day, with my back to the window, listening to her flow of rhetoric. She had an impressive dream the night before, in which someone had given her a golden scarab a costly piece of jewelry. While she was still telling me this dream, I heard something behind me gently tapping on the window. I turned round and saw that it was a fairly large flying insect knocking against the window-pane from outside in the obvious effort to get into the dark room.

This seemed to me very strange. I opened the window immediately and caught the insect in the air as it flew in. It was a scarabaeid beetle, whose gold-green color most nearly resembles that of a golden scarab. I handed the beetle to my patient with the words, Here is your scarab. This experience punctured the desired hole in her rationalism and broke the ice of her intellectual resistance.

Although the affliction frequently denotes more negative connotations than positive.

On the other hand, if you think about it, be it for good or for bad, life itself is an amalgam of events that are either serendipitous, spontaneous or synchronous or some blending of the three.

Not long ago, an ALS patient wrote a poem that upon first reading appeared to be little more than his own private pity party. Truthfully, I had to force myself to re-read it, but by the time I finished the second review, I realized that the message was, indeed, one of hope.

As the author later clarified,

If we are honest with ourselves, life is only temporary for anyone. All ALS really does is to provide a slightly more defined awareness of the inevitable.

That being the case, I plan to continue my pursuit of the Three Ss until I am no longer able.

Following that, I can sit back and savor each precious moment, encounter and person who passed through the pageant that has been my life.

Even ALS cannot take that away from me.

About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

Read more of Bobs journeys with ALS and his travels around the world

Editors Note: Support Bobs GoFundMe to give him a hand up

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Living with ALS: The Three S's of life Spontaneity, Serendipity and... - Communities Digital News

70 years on, anti-Hindi imposition becomes DMKs war cry once again – The News Minute

The anti-Hindi movement is nothing new to Tamil Nadu and DMK has always been at the forefront, leading the state in resisting the majoritarian onslaught on linguistic freedom.

Life has come a full circle for the DMK as it leads a protest on Friday against the imposition of Hindi in the wake of Union Home Minister Amit Shahs One nation, one language remark.

This day, 70 years ago, CN Annadurai along with four other senior leaders of the then Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) announced the name of a new party after choosing to break away from the parent group. But in many ways, it was the anti-Hindi agitations of the 1960s that not only catapulted it to power but gave the DMK a distinct identity.

While the anti-Hindi agitations have been a symbolic movement in Tamil Nadu since the 1930s, it was the 1965 protests that helped dislodge the Congress government, which had until then held fort in the state. The violent protests at the time were against the move to make Hindi the only official language. This was complicated further when the then Chief Minister M Bhaktavatsalam introduced the three-language policy in the Madras Legislative Assembly. In the subsequent 1967 state elections, the Congress was defeated by the DMK led by CN Annadurai.

Now decades later, Amit Shahs remark that only Hindi can unify India has rekindled the anti-Hindi imposition sentiment in the state, with the DMK being quick to counter the one nation, one language idea. 70 years after it was formed, stop Hindi imposition remains DMKs war cry, but is it more than just rhetoric?

The Hindi issue will continue to be alive as long as Hindi speakers are in a majority and they continue to hold power at the Centre. It is a majoritarian attitude, says R Kannan, biographer of CN Annadurai. He credits the DMK for a lot of the recent happenings at the language sphere like enabling candidates appearing for central government recruitment exams to write the test in the regional language.

The DMK and the Dravidian movement have had a history of opposing Hindi imposition, he emphasizes adding that Tamil Nadu is the only state with the two-language policy and have stuck to it since 1968. Stating that DMKs fight has been to keep Hindi away from essential services (postal services, governance, education) Kannan points out, The party has been demanding equality between Hindi and other regional languages listed in the Constitution.

Plurality and linguistic freedom

AS Panneerselvan, Readers Editor of The Hindu and author of a forthcoming biography of late DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi sees DMKs anti-Hindi imposition stance as one of linguistic pride.

It (The idea of linguistic freedom) is a sense of pride which flows from the basic right to practice your own language. That is where this comes from, he argues, adding that such assertions are crucial to retain Indias plurality.

I dont think Indiawould have remained plural if the south had been passive when this extreme centralization started happening in the wake of partition. This struggle is hence important because it ensured that India remained plural and gave space for multiple identities, he says.

Kannan also views DMKs stance on Hindi in a similar manner.

The DMK's fight is, to an extent, symbolic. It is required because we happen to be the only state which keeps protesting at every turn. Now we see pockets of protests in Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. But they are not as deep-rooted or spread out as in Tamil Nadu, he explains. Kannan also points out that a large portion of the opposition in other states could be for BJP rather than Hindi.

Adding that the fight against majoritarianism has to continue, Kannan says, The DMK has always taken a stand. Annadurai, DMKs founder has always maintained that the following for Hindi must be organic and that we are not opposed to Hindi.

Panneerselvan also points to the difference between the anti-Hindi agitations of the 1930s and the ones that are happening now. At that point, it was only Tamil Nadu, now we have Karnataka and West Bengal joining hands. In these 70 years, (since the DMK was founded), the scope of linguistic freedom has widened and more linguistic groups are recognising the need to protect their own language and their own linguistic traditions, he explains

Compromise and conciliation

The party has seen ups and downs in the past 70 years, from losing the peoples mandate to losing M Karunanidhi in 2018. Commenting on the evolution of DMK through the last 70 years, Kannan says that the party has largely stuck to the founding principles of the party. He, however, says that the party has had to make some compromises on the way on its electoral journey.

DMK is loyal to the original ideal. But every party that decides to come to the electoral arena has to make some compromises now and then. DMK has also done that, he explains. For a party that was once rooted in Dravidian rationalism, Kannan notes that many of its second-rung leaders now sport Kumkum (vermillion) and vibhuti (holy ash).

Panneerselvan, however, says that DMKs politics has been one of conciliation rather than revolution, bringing in change gradually. DMK was born with the idea of conciliation in mind rather than revolution. It is a party which managed to bring in changes in an incremental fashion, says Panneerselvan, adding that the party realizes that dramatic change might not work in a country like India.

Some people confuse incremental change with compromise. But DMK consider it as conciliation. There is a difference between conciliatory political approach and compromise. Conciliation enhances your ability to negotiate and secure benefits for your own people. What DMK managed to do was to draw that fine line which divided conciliation from compromise. Hence, they could join a union government and still remain a regional party, he explains, pointing out that since 1972, when the AIADMK split from the erstwhile DMK, national parties like the BJP and Congress have been wiped out of Tamil Nadus political playground.

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70 years on, anti-Hindi imposition becomes DMKs war cry once again - The News Minute

BBC – Religions – Atheism: Rationalism

Auguste Rodin's The Thinker

Rationalism is an approach to life based on reason and evidence.

Rationalism encourages ethical and philosophical ideas that can be tested by experience and rejects authority that cannot be proved by experience.

Because rationalism encourages people to think for themselves, rationalists have many different and diverse ideas and continue in a tradition from the nineteenth century known as freethought.

However, most rationalists would agree that:

Almost all rationalists are atheists or agnostics. There has been a long link between rationalism and scientific method.

There is also a long tradition of philosophers who have approached philosophical and ethical questions from a rationalist perspective.

Bertrand Russell's "The Faith of a Rationalist" is an example of a rationalist approach to religious belief.

As well as approaching life through reason, rationalists enjoy those things in life where emotion and imagination are to the fore.

There has been a long tradition of artists and writers who have been associated with rationalism and its sister movement, humanism, or have pre-empted rationalist ideas in their writings. George Eliot, E.M. Forster and Emile Zola are all examples of such writers.

Rationalism encourages people to think for themselves, to look at the evidence before them and to come to their own conclusions. For this reason, the logo of the Rationalist Press Association is based on Rodin's "The Thinker".

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BBC - Religions - Atheism: Rationalism

What is CR? – critical rationalism blogcritical …

I like to think of CR (critical rationalism) as a kind of evolving philosophical tradition concerning how we should approach knowledge. It is the Socratic method only with a little bit of modern awareness. While most philosophical traditions regard knowledge as something that has to be certain and justified, CR takes the view that we dont have ultimate answers, but knowledge is nevertheless possible. Truth is an endless quest.

The modern founder of critical rationalism was Karl Popper. Popper pointed out we can never justify anything, we merely criticize and weed out bad ideas and work with whats left. Poppers initial emphasis was on empirical science, where he solved the problem of induction, something that had been haunting philosophers and scientists for centuries. The problem of induction is this. No matter how many times weve seen an apple fall to the ground after weve dropped it, do we have any way to prove the same thing will happen next time we drop it. The answer is no. What Popper pointed out is that you can never justify any scientific theory, but you can falsify it. If I were to claim that all swans were white, one black swan would falsify my theory. In this way, science moves forward by weeding out bad theories, so to speak.

Popper said that science moves forward through a method of conjecture and refutation. While Popper was primarily interested in science, he often commented on political problems as well. Popper liked to emphasize the need for an open society, a society where people can speak out and criticize. After all, if science progresses through refutations, criticizing becomes essential. We need to speak out and therefore we need the freedom to do so. Popper was against any form of government that didnt give people the chance to speak out. Poppers thinking could probably best be summed up in this quote, I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth.

Popper worked hard to expand his ideas, and so have several other people. CR should not be viewed as one mans philosophy, but as a growing philosophical tradition. One in which several people have contributed and are still contributing. One notable person was William Warren Bartley, III. Bartley worked towards expanding the idea of critical rationalism to cover all areas of knowledge, not just empirical science. Bartley felt that while in almost all areas of knowledge we seek justification, we should instead seek criticism. While nothing can ever be justified in any ultimate sense, certainly we can see error and weed it out. This is true whether we are dealing with empirical science and perhaps even knowledge of what is ethical. An important part of Bartleys thinking could probably best be summed up in this quote, How can our intellectual life and institutions, our tradition, and even our etiquette, sensibility, manners and customs, and behavior patterns, be arranged so as to expose our beliefs, conjectures, ideologies, policies, positions, programs, sources of ideas, traditions, and the like, to optimum criticism, so as at once to counteract and eliminate as much intellectual error as possible, and also so as to contribute to and insure the fertility of the intellectual econiche: to create an environment in which not only negative criticism but also positive creation of ideas, and the development of rationality, are truly inspired.

Neither Bartley or Popper have exhaustively explored the full potential of the CR philosophical tradition. Indeed, there are unlimited possibilities. While CR often emphasizes criticism, it also encourages new approaches and creative thinking. We need to come up with as many new ideas as we can, then let the process of criticism weed out the less workable ones. As CR accepts that the truth is out there and we are working towards it, it is actually a very optimistic philosophical tradition. Perhaps the most optimistic among the big three philosophical traditions. What are the big three traditions. Let me give you a quick summary.

One, dogmatism. Decide that you are privy to ultimate truth and then just follow that truth no matter what. Does such an attitude contribute to fanaticism? Perhaps.

Two, pessimism. Decide that truth is impossible, relative, random, meaningless. Just do whatever you want because nothing matters anyway. Does such an attitude contribute to random violence? Perhaps.

Three, critical rationalism, the truth is out there, but no one has a monopoly on it, so lets work together to try and get a little closer to it. Does such an attitude contribute to progress and mutual respect? More than likely.

If youd like more details than this then thats what this blog is for, please look around and explore.

Matt Dioguardi, blog administrator

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What is CR? - critical rationalism blogcritical ...

Rationalism and Empiricism – Ohio Northern University

Rationalism and EmpiricismRationalism and EmpiricismSome Notes on Epistemological Strategies and their Implications in Ethics

While the main focus in an ethics course is on ethics and the problems and issues that ethics raises, it is impossible to investigate these problems in isolation, without at least some excursions into the other philosophical sub-disciplines. While all the philosophical sub-disciplines consider what, on one level, are separate questions and issues, there are considerable interconnections, as assumptions in one area will have repercussions in other areas. One question that all ethical theories must address is where ethical knowledge arises, i.e., where does the knowledge about general ethical principles or the knowledge that certain actions are moral or immoral originate? These and other similar questions raise issues that are no longer unique to ethics, rather these issues touch upon more general epistemological questions, i.e., questions about knowledgeits sources, nature and justification. To some the question Where does knowledge originate? might seem rather strange. While knowledge acquisition and manipulation are essential to human beings, the more usual epistemological questions concern some particular ideas source or some statements truth conditions. So, while it is common to inquire into a statement or ideas source, to inquire into all knowledges source seems strange. Some might question whether an answer is even possible. Nevertheless, it is a legitimate (indeed, an essential) philosophical question and though there are difficultiesreal difficultiesanswers are possible. Rationalism and empiricism represent the traditional Western philosophical responses to these epistemological questions. As epistemological theories these philosophical traditions each trace their origins to ancient Greece and the earliest philosophical speculations about the human condition and each also brings unique insights and assumptions to questions about human knowledges nature and origins.


Rationalism distinguishes between empirical knowledge, i.e., knowledge that arises through experience, and a priori knowledge, i.e., knowledge that is prior to experience and that arises through reason. As knowledge that arises through our experiences, empirical knowledge is about the material universe (and the various entities and phenomena in that universe). Sentences such as Edinburgh is in Scotland, It is 75o outside, John Locke was a philosopher, The average moose weights 1500 pounds each express statements about certain entities in the universe and so represent empirical knowledge. In contrast a priori knowledge is not about phenomena in the empirical universe or our experiences, though some a priori knowledge is applicable to that universe. The sense in which a priori knowledge is prior to experience is logical rather than temporal, i.e., it is possible that one learns some a priori knowledge through experience, nevertheless that knowledge neither requires experience in order to be known, nor is about experience. Perhaps it is easier, then, to consider a priori knowledge as knowledge that arises through reason alone, i.e., it depends upon no experience. Consider, e.g., mathematical knowledge or logical knowledge. The statement All triangles have three sides makes no claim about experience or the empirical universe since there are no triangles in the universe. There are, to be sure, triangular entities, i.e., physical entities that have a triangular shape, but no triangles themselves. In a similar manner, the statement 3+3=6 makes no claims about the universe as there are no 3s or 6s that one can experience and so possess empirical knowledge about. Again, while it is obvious that some mathematical knowledge is applicable to experience (e.g., 3+3=6 is applicable when one has 3 apples and someone gives one 3 more applesone then knows that one has 6 apples), this fails to demonstrate that the mathematical statement 3+3=6 is an empirical statement. The logical statements x = x, All the entities in the universe are either x or not-x and No entities in the universe are both x and not-x are also statements that while applicable to experience are not about experience.[1] There is another difference between empirical and a priori knowledge in addition to their respective sources and content. This difference has to do with their truth conditions. A truth condition specifies under what conditions a given statement can be said to be true or false, i.e., it indicates what one needs to do to prove a statement true or false. Consider the statement It is 75o outside. Under what conditions is this statement true? It should be obvious that the statement is true so long as the outside temperature is 75o. How would one prove whether the statement is true or false? Again, it should be obvious that one would need to determine, through some procedure or apparatus, the outside temperature. In short, one appeals to experience and the empirical data it provides. In contrast to this empirical statement, consider again the statement 3+3=6. Under what conditions is this statement true and how is it possible to prove it? Well, it is true so long as 3+3 does indeed equal 6, this much seems obvious. But, and here is the principal difference between empirical and a priori knowledge, how does one prove the statement to be true? Perhaps the most obvious response is: Well, take three apples and add them to three more apples and then there are six apples. While this demonstration is to the point, does it suffice to prove that 3+3=6? No, at best this little exercise confirms the statement, but it fails to prove it. To understand the difference between prove and confirm consider another illustration. It is a quiet summer afternoon and James decides to rest on the grass beside a river. Some moments later a white swan swims down stream. As James continues to rest seven more swans, that are also white, swim down stream. James considers this experience and realizes that all the swans he has ever seen have been white. So, James formulates the statement All swans are white and sure enough the next swan he passes is white. Did this last experience prove that the statement All swans are white is true? No, since James has not seen all swans, it is possible that there is at least one that is some non-white color. James experience does, however, provide additional confirmation that the statement is true (at least until James discovers there are non-white swans). To prove that 3+3=6 is true then requires that one appeals to more than experience. To be precise, one must appeal to other mathematical knowledge. At this point someone will perhaps take exception with this analysis and point out that since one learns mathematics through experience, so mathematics must also be empirical knowledge! The point is well taken. The source, however, is not the real issue. The real issue is what the knowledge is about and its truth conditions. Moreover, even though some a priori knowledge might arise through experience, it should be obvious that most does not, i.e., while one might argue that one learns basic mathematical truths, e.g., 1+1=2, 2+2=4 and so on, through experience, it seems clear that there are other mathematical truths that it is much more difficult to learn through experience, e.g., 3525+2353=5858 or a2+b2=c2. The rationalists point here is that a priori knowledge is about more than experience and as such it provides knowledge that experience is unable to provide. A similar analysis will demonstrate that logical statements such as All the entities in the universe are either x or not-x also depend upon no experience to determine their truth. Indeed, since the statement is about all the entities in the universe, the experience one needs to prove it as an empirical claim is impossible. It should be obvious, however, that one needs no experience or empirical data to prove the statement, i.e., whatever characteristic one chooses as x, it is apparent that all the entities in the universe either have x or do not have x. All the entities in the universe are either purple or not purple, bigger than a cat or not bigger than a cat, spherical or not spherical, and so on. One can know that this statement is true even when one has no idea what the characteristic in question is. Thus, one knows that all the entities in the universe are either merbalis or not-merbalis, even though no one else in the universe knows what merbalis is (since I made it up!). To rationalists this power to discern and generate universal truths is quite impressive. Indeed, the differences between rationalism and empiricism as to (a) what constitutes genuine knowledge, (b) what such knowledge is about, and (c) its truth conditions, suggest to the rationalists that there is a real qualitative difference between empirical and a priori knowledge. To be precise, most rationalists argue that a priori knowledge is superior to empirical knowledge. The one consideration that is seen as the most decisive in this argument is the difference in truth conditions between empirical and a priori knowledge. Most rationalists consider there to be a fundamental problem with empirical knowledge. Empirical knowledge depends upon our senses, senses that, the rationalist wastes no time to demonstrate, are unreliable. Here the rationalist appeals to common sense deceptions and perceptual illusionswhen one places a straight rod into water the rod appears to bend, at a distance a square tower appears to be round, parallel lines appear to converge in the distance, and so on.[2] Thus, it is difficult, perhaps even impossible, to ever know that an empirical statement is true. It seems that it is possible to doubt even the most certain sense perceptions. In contrast, a priori knowledge is certain knowledge. While it might be possible to doubt that I see a map on the wall beside the computer (I might have a bizarre optical disease or it might be a hallucination), it seems impossible to doubt that 2+2=4. Furthermore, while empirical knowledge represents conditional knowledge, i.e., knowledge that might have been otherwise, a priori knowledge is universal and eternal. Again, while it is possible to imagine a universe in which the earths circumference was 30,000 miles rather than 25,000 miles or a universe in which politicians are honest or a universe in which the Chicago Cubs do win a World Series, it seems impossible to imagine a universe in which 2+2=6 or where triangles have more (or less) than three sides. As with most philosophical theories there is some disagreement between rationalists on certain issues. One issue that separates rationalists is the answer to the question where a priori knowledge originates. The more radical rationalists (e.g., Plato and Rene Descartes) argue that a priori knowledge is innate, i.e., the knowledge is in some manner latent within the mind or even built into the mind. At best then experience acts to elicit the knowledge, but the knowledge was there prior to the experience. Plato argues that all genuine knowledge is innate and education is mere recollection or remembrance (see Platos dialogue Meno), while Descartes claims that certain critical conceptsGod, material substance, and mental substanceare innate. Given these three innate ideas and reason, Descartes argues that other a priori knowledge is derivable. The obvious problem that these radical rationalist strategies face is the need to explain where the mind acquires these innate ideas. In Platos case the solution is an immortal soul-mind that lives through countless lives (i.e., reincarnations), whereas Descartes argues that God places these ideas in human minds. It is also possible to argue that evolution is responsible, i.e., the minds biological structure contains the ideas. While this sounds rather strange, the linguist Noam Chomsky argues this precise thesis. Unless one assumes that certain linguistic structures, e.g., deep grammar, are innate, the argument goes, it is impossible to explain the apparent ease with which human beings learn natural languages. Immanual Kant argues a less radical rationalist line. Kant accepts the rationalist claim that reason alone can provide certain knowledge. Nevertheless, Kant also accepts the empiricist claim that all knowledge begins in experience, i.e., without sense experience as the initial data upon which reason can operate, the knowledge acquisition process can never start. Knowledge, as Kant conceives it then is what the mind produces as it orders and structures otherwise chaotic sense data. The rather radical idea here is that it is the mind that imposes the order and structure on the sense data, the implication being that the sense data have no intrinsic order or structure. The main organizational principles that the mind imposes on sense data are its spatial and temporal structure. These considerations led Kant to a metaphysical distinctionthe distinction between the noumenal universe and the phenomenal universe. The noumenal universe comprises entities-in-themselves, while the phenomenal universe comprises entities-through-their-appearances (White 1996: 296). This is rather technical so it is best to go through it in stages. Suppose someone presents us with a blue glass sphere. It is through our senses that we perceive this sphere. In this case the principal senses are visual and tactileour visual sense indicates that it is blue and spherical and our tactile sense that it is glass and also that it is spherical. Philosophers call these qualitiesbeing blue, being glass and being sphericalproperties or characteristics. All entities have propertiesa size, a shape, a color, a taste, a texture, an odor, and sound and so on. Kants point is that it is through these properties, and through these properties alone, that all the knowledge we have about the entities in the universe arises. All knowledge about entities comes through their properties (which Kant calls appearances). Our commonsense intuitions suggest, however, that there must be some substance or matter that has the properties that our senses perceive, i.e., that the properties cannot exist without some substance that underlies them and possesses them as properties. While the substance that underlies the properties is unseen, nevertheless reason and commonsense insist that it must exist. Descartes suggests that such inferences are rather common occurrences, e.g., when one peers out a window on a cold winter afternoon one might see a person move across the lawn. But does one see a person? No, all that one sees is a cap, a coat and perhaps trousers and shoes. Nevertheless, no one doubts that there is someone under all the apparel. Even though one is unable to see the person one still reasons that there must be one there, since clothes seldom stroll across lawns on their own. Kant agrees that there must be entities that possess the properties our senses perceive, but argues that while logic necessitates their existence, these entities-in-themselves (which comprise the noumenal universe) are unperceivable and so incomprehensible to the human mind. All that is knowable are the properties (i.e., appearances) that our senses perceive and our mind structures. These appearances are the entities that comprise the phenomenal universe. There are no means then to, as it were, move outside our senses to see entities in themselves, to see the real universe rather than the universe that our senses communicate to us through perception. Since all our knowledge comes through the senses and reason, these act as filters which order and structure all our perceptions and thoughts. The entities-in-themselves that underlie the perceptions remain forever elusive. While perhaps more plausible, Kants rationalism imposes limitations on knowledge that more radical rationalists would refuse to accept. Nevertheless, Kants approach is rationalist since it is the mind (to be precise, reason), that gives our sense perceptions the structure that changes them into knowledge (White 1996: 297). The main point to remember is that rationalists believe that, even though it might require experience to initiate the knowledge process, there is some knowledge that is irreducible to experience, i.e., the knowledge is neither about experience nor is it possible to use experience to demonstrate that the knowledge is true or false.


Empiricism denies the rationalist distinction between empirical and a priori knowledge. All knowledge, the empiricist argues, arises through, and is reducible to, sense perception. Thus, there is no knowledge that arises through reason alone. It is essential to be clear here: it is not reasons existence that empiricism denies, or that reason has a role in knowledge acquisition and manipulation, rather it is that reason has some special access to knowledge over and above the knowledge that experience provides. All empiricists acknowledge that human beings possess reasonreason is the instrument that allows us to manipulate and augment the knowledge that experience provides. Knowledge, however, has its origins in experience rather than in reason. Empiricism begins with the distinction between sense data and ideas. Sense data represent the basic information that the senses present to the mind through our perceptual experiences, i.e., sights, tastes, textures, sounds and odors. To illustrate, suppose that one sees a blue sphere. This sense experience is reducible to the visual act and the sense data (i.e., the information that the visual act contains). In this case the information that the visual act contains is that there is a visible blueness and a sphericalness. At this stage there is no conscious recognition that one sees a blue sphere, all there is is the pure sense data that the senses present to the mind through the sense experiences. The mind processes and represents each individual sense datum as an idea, in this case the ideas blue and spherical. The mind then associates and combines the ideas it creates through sense experience to create the conscious idea blue sphere. To the empiricist, sense data represent the basic material that the mind uses to construct the ideas that comprise all our knowledge. Thus, no matter what the idea is, it is possible to trace that idea to some sense experience(s). While the precise details differ, these are the basic cognitive mechanisms that the principal empiricist philosophersJohn Locke, George Berkeley and David Humeall appeal to in order to explain the process through which sense data becomes knowledge. Although empiricism denies a priori knowledges existence, as knowledge that depends upon no experience, there is still the recognition that some knowledge goes further than experience in the sense that it is not about experience. Nevertheless, empiricism argues that such knowledge is still reducible to experience. Again, this is the crucial notionthat it is possible to trace all knowledge, whether or not it is about experience, to some particular experience or experiences. Rather than preserve what is thought to be an inaccurate distinction, empiricism recasts the distinction between a priori knowledge and empirical knowledge into the distinction between analytic knowledge and synthetic knowledge. Through this distinction empiricism denies the rationalist claim that a priori knowledge is superior to empirical knowledge. Indeed, the distinction provides the basis to argue the precise opposite. The statements that the rationalists cite as paradigmatic a priori knowledgeA triangle has three sides, 3+3=6 and so onthe empiricist sees as analytic statements. An analytic statement is one where the statement analyzes the concept in question. Thus, the statement A triangle has three sides does no more than analyze the concept triangle, and the statement 3=3=6 does no more than analyzes the concept six. Moreover, the empiricist argues, these statements never do more than analyze the concepts in question. In a real sense then these statements provide no additional knowledge, all the knowledge that analytic statements contain is given is within the original concept the statement analyzes (White 1996: 280). Synthetic statements, in contrast, do provide additional knowledgeknowledge that goes further than the original concept. Consider the statement: The temperature outside is 75o. This is a synthetic statement since, while it has to be some temperature outside, there is no reason that it has to be 75o rather than some other temperature. The concepts temperature and outside then have no intrinsic connection to some specific outside temperature, rather what the temperature depends upon are various other environmental conditions. So statement such as The temperature outside is 75o provide us with additional (and sometimes valuable) information. All synthetic statements then share the characteristic that, because there is no intrinsic or logical connection between the statements elements, these statements provide information about a connection or relation that is unavailable in the original concepts themselves. Given that analytic statements reveal no additional insights, while synthetic statements do provide novel ideas and associations, it should come as no surprise that empiricism argues that empirical knowledge is superior to a priori knowledge rather than the reverse (or to be more precise, that synthetic knowledge is superior to analytic knowledge). With the focus on analytic truths rationalism never quite reaches the real universe in the manner that synthetic statements are able to do. There is, however, a philosophical price to be paid. While the empiricist gains additional insights and knowledge there is a loss in certitude, since the empiricist still must deal with senses that (the rationalist is correct to maintain) are unreliable. The rationalist can be certain that 2+2=4, the empiricist, however, must accept that empirical knowledge is at best probable, never certain. The problem is that the empiricist has no real response to the claim that it is possible to doubt even the most persuasive sense impressions, since it is possible to doubt them without logical contradiction. In philosophical terms, the problem is that our sense perceptions underdetermine their causes, i.e., a given sense perception has more than one explanation. Consider, e.g., that one sees a white rabbit. What might explain this perception? The obvious answer is that one sees a white rabbit because there is a white rabbit there. It is also possible, however, that one has a rare optical disease and the rabbit is some other color, rather than white. It is also possible that one hallucinates or dreams the rabbit. As Alice will attest, these are all logical possibilities and the sense experiences in themselves provide no certain means to decide which explanation is correct. This suggests another potential problem that empiricism must addresshow to explain mathematics and logic? Remember that empiricism maintains that all knowledge is reducible to experience. Thus, the empiricist must explain how it is possible to reduce sometimes arcane mathematical knowledge to common sense experience. This means that, since mathematical knowledge is thought to be certain knowledge, the empiricist must explain how it is possible to derive certain knowledge through a processsense experiencethat provides knowledge that is, at best, probable. Moreover, the empiricist must also explain how it is possible to prove mathematical statements through experience. There have been numerous attempts to demonstrate how it is possible to derive mathematics and logic through experience. Though commendable these attempts all have had serious difficulties and so have met with little general acceptance. Even were it possible to reduce mathematics to experience, the questions (1) whether experiences whose truth is probable can produce certain mathematical knowledge and (2) how it is possible to prove mathematical statements through experience, pose rather more serious difficulties. Perhaps the easiest, though least intuitive, solution is to argue that there is no certitude in mathematics. This is John Stuart Mills tactic. Mill, a radical empiricist, argues that, as with all other all empirical statements, mathematical statements express mere probabilities. All that distinguishes them is that mathematical statements have undergone more extensive con-firmation than other statements (Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2: 503). The disadvantage to this tactic is obvious: one must give up all claims to absolute truth in mathematics. Most philosophers (as well as mathematicians) consider this concession to be as difficult as it is undesirable. In contrast to Mill, less radical empiricists, e.g., David Hume and John Locke, still want to maintain mathematics certitude. This too, however, comes at a price. To preserve mathematical truths as absolute truths Locke argues that some perceptions, and the ideas that represent these perceptions, can be more certain than others. To be precise, Locke argues that, when reason operates on experience, the ideas, and the associations between ideas, that it produces result in knowledge that is either intuitive, demonstrative or sensitive. Locke maintains that intuitive knowledge and demonstrative knowledge are certain knowledge (Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2: 501). Lockes arguments here are technical and, to most, less than a complete success. To all intents and purposes, however, what Locke does in order to guarantee certain knowledge is to introduce certain rationalist elements. The consequence is that Lockes certain knowledge is rather too similar to the rationalists a priori knowledge to please most empiricists. Since empiricism argues that there is no knowledge that arises through reason alone, it should be obvious that empiricism also denies that there are innate ideas, i.e., ideas that are in the mind prior to experience or that are built into the mind in some manner. The standard argument against innate ideas is that were there such ideas then all rational beings should possess and acknowledge them. Since it is obvious that there are neither universal ideas, i.e., ideas that all human beings possess, nor ideas upon which their is universal agreement, then there are no innate ideas (see John Lockes Essays on the Law of Nature and Essay Concerning Human Understanding, and David Humes A Treatise on Human Nature). The empiricist considers the pre-experience mind to be a tabula rasaa clean slateand it is through experience that knowledge comes to be written on this slate. Thus, empiricisms credo is that where there is (or can be) no experience there is (and can be) no knowledge.


The debate between rationalism and empiricism continues, and it is quite possible some issues will be impossible to resolve, at least given our finite human intelligence. To the degree that it is possible to determine the correct solutions to these issues, the British philosopher Bertrand Russell concludes that the score is even. Russell argues that while it seems clear that the empiricists are correct that all knowledge must arise through experience, it also seems obvious that there is some knowledge that it is impossible to reduce to experience, i.e., reason is able to use experience to produce knowledge that it is nevertheless impossible to prove through experience (see The Problems of Philosophy). The main purpose here, however, is to illustrate that ones general philosophical assumptions about knowledges nature and origins will have consequences in other philosophical investigations, in particular in ethics. And to illustrate that all theories involve compromises, i.e., no matter the initial assumptions, there will be advantages and disadvantages. It is to a philosophers credit then to be able to detect and acknowledge the disadvantages as well as the advantages that their positions entail.

John Locke:Lockes natural law ethics reveals the same tensions that run through Lockes general approach to knowledge. The desire to have some knowledge be certain knowledge, even though all knowledge arises through experience, forces Locke to argue that reason is able to combine some ideas in a manner that produces certain knowledge. Such knowledge is irresistible, i.e., it leaves no room to hesitate or doubt (Encyclopedia of Philosophy 4: 497). Thus, Locke argues that certain knowledge is possible. Perhaps most important to Lockes ethics is the conviction it is possible to be certain that God exists. More than this, since Locke bases what is moral on what God wills, it is even possible to know what it is that Gods desires human beings to do, i.e., the divine law. The divine law as discoverable through reason becomes the natural lawthe command to preserve human beings. The natural law, Locke argues, underlies and governs all human interaction. Thus, through the nature law reason is able to derive all the particular natural rights and moral duties that human beings possess. These are rights and duties that all human beings possess as human beings and that human beings must use as a guide in their behavior. The universal and absolute character is what reason supplies to experience to produce certain knowledge.

Immanual Kant:While Kant thought there was much to admire in the empiricist philosopher David Humes A Treatise on Human Nature, and though he even accepts the empiricist principle that all knowledge arises in experience, Kant is without doubt a rationalist. This rationalism is quite apparent in Kants philosophical investigations into ethics. Kant believes that the supreme principle that underlies all moralsthe categorical imperativemust be absolute and universal. Such a principle can never arise in experience, Kant argues, since all experience is particular (i.e., about particular entities in particular situations at particular times). Neither can experience prove this principle. Experience can at best, Kant insists, confirm the categorical imperative. In contrast to the knowledge that arises through experience, the knowledge that arises through reason is abstract and universal. To illustrate the difference consider the statements There are wombats in Tasmania and a2+b2=c2. It is clear that the empirical statement There are wombats in Tasmania is about particular entities (wombats) and a particular situation (being in Tasmania). The mathematical statement has no such limitations. This statement is abstract in that it mentions no particular entities and universal in that it applies to all appropriate as, bs and cs. It is reason alone then that is able to determine and prove the categorical imperative as the supreme moral principle. Kant distinguishes here between theoretical reason and practical reason. It is theoretical reason that investigates the empirical universe. This is the reason that science uses. Practical reasons concern is the will, that motive force in human beings that underlies all moral behavior. To be precise, it is practical reasons role to create a good will. To do this practical reason determines the moral principle that the will must follow, i.e., the categorical imperative. The general epistemological limitations that arise because Kant accepts the empiricist principle that all knowledge begins in experience are also apparent in Kants ethics. Since it is impossible to know entities-in-themselves there are certain entities and ideas, whose importance to ethics are immeasurable, about which human beings can have no knowledge whatsoever. In particular, it is impossible to have knowledge as to whether (1) God exists, (2) the soul is immortal and (3) that human possess free will. Kant argues, however, that even without certain knowledge, it is still essential to assume that all these are true, otherwise ethics is impossible.

John Stuart Mill:Mills utilitarian ethics incorporates the radical interpretation that Mill gives the empiricist principle that all knowledge arises in experience. Mill interprets the all to mean all knowledge. Thus, Mill assumes that even mathematical and logical knowledge are empirical knowledge with all the limitations that such knowledge possesses. Mill manages to overcome, however, the scepticism that characterizes Humes empiricism (Encyclopedia of Philosophy 5: 318). The Greatest Happiness Principle that underlies utilitarian ethics states that those actions are moral which provide the greatest happiness to the greatest number. What determines happiness is without a doubt an empirical matter, i.e., it is through our experience that we realize what actions cause the pleasures that increase happiness and what actions cause the pains that decrease happiness. Reasons role in this process is to learn through these experiences and to formulate the general moral rules that will, over time, lead to the greatest happiness. It is essential to realize, however, that while these general moral rules are meant to guide behavior, because our experiences change, these rules can and do change over time. There are no certain, or absolute, or universal moral rules. Experience is unable to provide such permanence. Mill also acknowledges, that it is impossible to prove that happiness is the ultimate end that drives all human desire and action. As a consequence Mill must concede, and this is a rather radical concession, that it is impossible to provide a logical demonstration that the Greatest Happiness Principle is the fundamental moral law. Logical analysis, Mill argues, has no place in ethics. In contrast to Locke and Kant then Mill denies that ethics is, or can be, a science. In the end, Mills normative ethics rests upon psychological observations and arguments, whereas Locke and Kant believe their normative theories to rest upon logical arguments.


1. Bertrand Russell argues that, more that obvious logical truths, without at least the assumption that these principles are true, rational argument becomes impossible (1912: 72). 2. There is an extensive discussion about these problems in Rene Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy.

Sources and References

Blau, J.L. 1967 Immanual Kant. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 1967 John Locke. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy.Descartes, Rene 1993 Meditations on First Philosophy. Indianpolis: Hackett.Hamlyn, D.W. 1967 Empiricism. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy.Hume, David 1969 A Treatise of Human Nature. London: Penguin.Locke, John 1950 Essays on the Law of Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1975 An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Plato 1981 Five Dialogues. Indianapolis: Hackett.Russell, Bertrand 1912 The Problems of Philosophy. Indianapolis: Hackett.Schneewind, J. B. 1967 John Stuart Mill. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy.White, Thomas I. 1996 Discovering Philosophy. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Williams, Bernard 1967 Rationalism. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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Rationalism and Empiricism - Ohio Northern University

Rationalism | Britannica.com

Rationalism has somewhat different meanings in different fields, depending upon the kind of theory to which it is opposed.

In the psychology of perception, for example, rationalism is in a sense opposed to the genetic psychology of the Swiss scholar Jean Piaget (18961980), who, exploring the development of thought and behaviour in the infant, argued that the categories of the mind develop only through the infants experience in concourse with the world. Similarly, rationalism is opposed to transactionalism, a point of view in psychology according to which human perceptual skills are achievements, accomplished through actions performed in response to an active environment. On this view, the experimental claim is made that perception is conditioned by probability judgments formed on the basis of earlier actions performed in similar situations. As a corrective to these sweeping claims, the rationalist defends a nativism, which holds that certain perceptual and conceptual capacities are innateas suggested in the case of depth perception by experiments with the visual cliff, which, though platformed over with firm glass, the infant perceives as hazardousthough these native capacities may at times lie dormant until the appropriate conditions for their emergence arise.

In the comparative study of languages, a similar nativism was developed in the 1950s by the innovating syntactician Noam Chomsky, who, acknowledging a debt to Ren Descartes (15961650), explicitly accepted the rationalistic doctrine of innate ideas. Though the thousands of languages spoken in the world differ greatly in sounds and symbols, they sufficiently resemble each other in syntax to suggest that there is a schema of universal grammar determined by innate presettings in the human mind itself. These presettings, which have their basis in the brain, set the pattern for all experience, fix the rules for the formation of meaningful sentences, and explain why languages are readily translatable into one another. It should be added that what rationalists have held about innate ideas is not that some ideas are full-fledged at birth but only that the grasp of certain connections and self-evident principles, when it comes, is due to inborn powers of insight rather than to learning by experience.

Common to all forms of speculative rationalism is the belief that the world is a rationally ordered whole, the parts of which are linked by logical necessity and the structure of which is therefore intelligible. Thus, in metaphysics it is opposed to the view that reality is a disjointed aggregate of incoherent bits and is thus opaque to reason. In particular, it is opposed to the logical atomisms of such thinkers as David Hume (171176) and the early Ludwig Wittgenstein (18891951), who held that facts are so disconnected that any fact might well have been different from what it is without entailing a change in any other fact. Rationalists have differed, however, with regard to the closeness and completeness with which the facts are bound together. At the lowest level, they have all believed that the law of contradiction A and not-A cannot coexist holds for the real world, which means that every truth is consistent with every other; at the highest level, they have held that all facts go beyond consistency to a positive coherence; i.e., they are so bound up with each other that none could be different without all being different.

In the field where its claims are clearestin epistemology, or theory of knowledgerationalism holds that at least some human knowledge is gained through a priori (prior to experience), or rational, insight as distinct from sense experience, which too often provides a confused and merely tentative approach. In the debate between empiricism and rationalism, empiricists hold the simpler and more sweeping position, the Humean claim that all knowledge of fact stems from perception. Rationalists, on the contrary, urge that some, though not all, knowledge arises through direct apprehension by the intellect. What the intellectual faculty apprehends is objects that transcend sense experienceuniversals and their relations. A universal is an abstraction, a characteristic that may reappear in various instances: the number three, for example, or the triangularity that all triangles have in common. Though these cannot be seen, heard, or felt, rationalists point out that humans can plainly think about them and about their relations. This kind of knowledge, which includes the whole of logic and mathematics as well as fragmentary insights in many other fields, is, in the rationalist view, the most important and certain knowledge that the mind can achieve. Such a priori knowledge is both necessary (i.e., it cannot be conceived as otherwise) and universal, in the sense that it admits of no exceptions. In the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant (17241804), epistemological rationalism finds expression in the claim that the mind imposes its own inherent categories or forms upon incipient experience (see below Epistemological rationalism in modern philosophies).

In ethics, rationalism holds the position that reason, rather than feeling, custom, or authority, is the ultimate court of appeal in judging good and bad, right and wrong. Among major thinkers, the most notable representative of rational ethics is Kant, who held that the way to judge an act is to check its self-consistency as apprehended by the intellect: to note, first, what it is essentially, or in principlea lie, for example, or a theftand then to ask if one can consistently will that the principle be made universal. Is theft, then, right? The answer must be No, because, if theft were generally approved, peoples property would not be their own as opposed to anyone elses, and theft would then become meaningless; the notion, if universalized, would thus destroy itself, as reason by itself is sufficient to show.

In religion, rationalism commonly means that all human knowledge comes through the use of natural faculties, without the aid of supernatural revelation. Reason is here used in a broader sense, referring to human cognitive powers generally, as opposed to supernatural grace or faiththough it is also in sharp contrast to so-called existential approaches to truth. Reason, for the rationalist, thus stands opposed to many of the religions of the world, including Christianity, which have held that the divine has revealed itself through inspired persons or writings and which have required, at times, that its claims be accepted as infallible, even when they do not accord with natural knowledge. Religious rationalists hold, on the other hand, that if the clear insights of human reason must be set aside in favour of alleged revelation, then human thought is everywhere rendered suspecteven in the reasonings of the theologians themselves. There cannot be two ultimately different ways of warranting truth, they assert; hence rationalism urges that reason, with its standard of consistency, must be the final court of appeal. Religious rationalism can reflect either a traditional piety, when endeavouring to display the alleged sweet reasonableness of religion, or an antiauthoritarian temper, when aiming to supplant religion with the goddess of reason.

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Rationalism | Britannica.com

Rationalism – History of rationalism | Britannica.com

The first Western philosopher to stress rationalist insight was Pythagoras, a shadowy figure of the 6th century bce. Noticing that, for a right triangle, a square built on its hypotenuse equals the sum of those on its sides and that the pitches of notes sounded on a lute bear a mathematical relation to the lengths of the strings, Pythagoras held that these harmonies reflected the ultimate nature of reality. He summed up the implied metaphysical rationalism in the words All is number. It is probable that he had caught the rationalists vision, later seen by Galileo (15641642), of a world governed throughout by mathematically formulable laws.

The difficulty in this view, however, is that, working with universals and their relations, which, like the multiplication table, are timeless and changeless, it assumes a static world and ignores the particular, changing things of daily life. The difficulty was met boldly by the rationalist Parmenides (born c. 515 bce), who insisted that the world really is a static whole and that the realm of change and motion is an illusion, or even a self-contradiction. His disciple Zeno of Elea (c. 495c. 430 bce) further argued that anything thought to be moving is confronted with a row of points infinite in number, all of which it must traverse; hence it can never reach its goal, nor indeed move at all. Of course, perception tells us that we do move, but Zeno, compelled to choose between perception and reason, clung to reason.

The exalting of rational insight above perception was also prominent in Plato (c. 427c. 347 bce). In the Meno, Socrates (c. 470399 bce) dramatized the innateness of knowledge by calling upon an illiterate slave boy and, drawing a square in the sand, proceeding to elicit from him, step by step, the proof of a theorem in geometry of which the boy could never have heard (to double the size of a square, draw a square on the diagonal). Such knowledge, rationalists insist, is certain, universal, and completely unlearned.

Plato so greatly admired the rigorous reasoning of geometry that he is alleged to have inscribed over the door of his Academy the phrase Let no one unacquainted with geometry enter here. His famous forms are accessible only to reason, not to sense. But how are they related to sensible things? His answers differed. Sometimes he viewed the forms as distilling those common properties of a class in virtue of which one identifies anything as a member of it. Thus, what makes anything a triangle is its having three straight sides; this is its essence. At other times, Plato held that the form is an ideal, a non-sensible goal to which the sensible thing approximates; the geometers perfect triangle never was on sea or land, though all actual triangles more or less embody it. He conceived the forms as more real than the sensible things that are their shadows and saw that philosophers must penetrate to these invisible essences and see with their minds eye how they are linked together. For Plato they formed an orderly system that was at once eternal, intelligible, and good.

Platos successor Aristotle (384322 bce) conceived of the work of reason in much the same way, though he did not view the forms as independent. His chief contribution to rationalism lay in his syllogistic logic, regarded as the chief instrument of rational explanation. Humans explain particular facts by bringing them under general principles. Why does one think Socrates will die? Because he is human, and humans are mortal. Why should one accept the general principle itself that all humans are mortal? In experience such principles have so far held without exception. But the mind cannot finally rest in this sort of explanation. Humans never wholly understand a fact or event until they can bring it under a principle that is self-evident and necessary; they then have the clearest explanation possible. On this central thesis of rationalism, the three great Greeks were in accord.

Nothing comparable in importance to their thought appeared in rationalistic philosophy in the next 1,800 years, though the work of St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 122574) was an impressive attempt to blend Greek rationalism and Christian revelation into a single harmonious system.

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Rationalism - History of rationalism | Britannica.com

Critical rationalism – Wikipedia

Critical rationalism is an epistemological philosophy advanced by Karl Popper. Popper wrote about critical rationalism in his works: The Logic of Scientific Discovery,[1] The Open Society and its Enemies,[2] Conjectures and Refutations,[3] The Myth of the Framework,[4] and Unended Quest.[5] Ernest Gellner is another notable proponent of this approach.[6]

Critical rationalists hold that scientific theories and any other claims to knowledge can and should be rationally criticized, and (if they have empirical content) can and should be subjected to tests which may falsify them. Thus claims to knowledge may be contrastingly and normatively evaluated. They are either falsifiable and thus empirical (in a very broad sense), or not falsifiable and thus non-empirical. Those claims to knowledge that are potentially falsifiable can then be admitted to the body of empirical science, and then further differentiated according to whether they are retained or are later actually falsified. If retained, further differentiation may be made on the basis of how much subjection to criticism they have received, how severe such criticism has been, and how probable the theory is, with the least[7] probable theory that still withstands attempts to falsify it being the one to be preferred. That it is the least[7] probable theory that is to be preferred is one of the contrasting differences between critical rationalism and classical views on science, such as positivism, who hold that one should instead accept the most probable theory. (The least probable theory is the one with the highest information content and most open to future falsification.)Critical Rationalism as a discourse positioned itself against what its proponents took to be epistemologically relativist philosophies, particularly post-modernist or sociological approaches to knowledge. Critical rationalism has it that knowledge is objective (in the sense of being embodied in various substrates and in the sense of not being reducible to what humans individually "know"), and also that truth is objective (exists independently of social mediation or individual perception, but is "really real").

However, this contrastive, critical approach to objective knowledge is quite different from more traditional views that also hold knowledge to be objective. (These include the classical rationalism of the Enlightenment, the verificationism of the logical positivists, or approaches to science based on induction, a supposed form of logical inference which critical rationalists reject, in line with David Hume.) For criticism is all that can be done when attempting to differentiate claims to knowledge, according to the critical rationalist. Reason is the organon of criticism, not of support; of tentative refutation, not of proof.

Supposed positive evidence (such as the provision of "good reasons" for a claim, or its having been "corroborated" by making successful predictions) actually does nothing to bolster, support, or prove a claim, belief, or theory.

In this sense, critical rationalism turns the normal understanding of a traditional rationalist, and a realist, on its head. Especially the view that a theory is better if it is less likely to be true is in direct opposition to the traditional positivistic view, which holds that one should seek for theories that have a high probability.[7] Popper notes that this "may illustrate Schopenhauer's remark that the solution of a problem often first looks like a paradox and later like a truism". Even a highly unlikely theory that conflicts current observation (and is thus false, like "all swans are white") must be considered to be better than one which fits observations perfectly, but is highly probable (like "all swans have a color"). This insight is the crucial difference between naive falsificationism and critical rationalism. The lower probability theory is favoured by critical rationalism because the higher the informative content of a theory the lower will be its probability, for the more information a statement contains, the greater will be the number of ways in which it may turn out to be false. The rationale behind this is simply to make it as easy as possible to find out whether the theory is false so that it can be replaced by one that is closer to the truth. It is not meant as a concession to justificatory epistemology, like assuming a theory to be "justifiable" by asserting that it is highly unlikely and yet fits observation.

Critical rationalism rejects the classical position that knowledge is justified true belief; it instead holds the exact opposite:[citation needed] That, in general, knowledge is unjustified untrue unbelief. It is unjustified because of the non-existence of good reasons. It is untrue, because it usually contains errors that sometimes remain unnoticed for hundreds of years. And it is not belief either, because scientific knowledge, or the knowledge needed to build a plane, is contained in no single person's mind. It is only available as the content of books.

William Warren Bartley compared critical rationalism to the very general philosophical approach to knowledge which he called justificationism, the view that scientific theories can be justified. Most justificationists do not know that they are justificationists. Justificationism is what Popper called a "subjectivist" view of truth, in which the question of whether some statement is true, is confused with the question of whether it can be justified (established, proven, verified, warranted, made well-founded, made reliable, grounded, supported, legitimated, based on evidence) in some way.

According to Bartley, some justificationists are positive about this mistake. They are nave rationalists, and thinking that their knowledge can indeed be founded, in principle, it may be deemed certain to some degree, and rational.

Other justificationists are negative about these mistakes. They are epistemological relativists, and think (rightly, according to the critical rationalist) that you cannot find knowledge, that there is no source of epistemological absolutism. But they conclude (wrongly, according to the critical rationalist) that there is therefore no rationality, and no objective distinction to be made between the true and the false.

By dissolving justificationism itself, the critical rationalist (a proponent of non-justificationism)[8] regards knowledge and rationality, reason and science, as neither foundational nor infallible, but nevertheless does not think we must therefore all be relativists. Knowledge and truth still exist, just not in the way we thought.

The rejection of "positivist" approaches to knowledge occurs due to various pitfalls that positivism falls into.

1. The nave empiricism of induction was shown to be illogical by Hume. A thousand observations of some event A coinciding with some event B does not allow one to logically infer that all A events coincide with B events. According to the critical rationalist, if there is a sense in which humans accrue knowledge positively by experience, it is only by pivoting observations off existing conjectural theories pertinent to the observations, or off underlying cognitive schemas which unconsciously handle perceptions and use them to generate new theories. But these new theories advanced in response to perceived particulars are not logically "induced" from them. These new theories may be wrong. The myth that we induce theories from particulars is persistent because when we do this we are often successful, but this is due to the advanced state of our evolved tendencies. If we were really "inducting" theories from particulars, it would be inductively logical to claim that the sun sets because I get up in the morning, or that all buses must have drivers in them (if you've never seen an empty bus).

2. Popper and David Miller showed in 1983[9] that evidence supposed to partly support a hypothesis can, in fact, only be neutral to, or even be counter-supportive of the hypothesis.

3. Related to the point above, David Miller,[10] attacks the use of "good reasons" in general (including evidence supposed to support the excess content of a hypothesis). He argues that good reasons are neither attainable, nor even desirable. Basically, Miller asserts that all arguments purporting to give valid support for a claim are either circular or question-begging. That is, if one provides a valid deductive argument (an inference from premises to a conclusion) for a given claim, then the content of the claim must already be contained within the premises of the argument (if it is not, then the argument is ampliative and so is invalid). Therefore, the claim is already presupposed by the premises, and is no more "supported" than are the assumptions upon which the claim rests, i.e. begging the question.

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Critical rationalism - Wikipedia

Rationalism – RationalWiki

Not to be confused with Rationality, which simply refers to the process of being reasonable.

Rationalism is a philosophy in which a high regard is given to reason (specifically logic) and to empirical observation.

From the strict philosophical standpoint, rationalism is the view that all or most truth is deductive and a priori, deriving logically from a set of axioms gained by intuition or inherent knowledge (and not from studying the world around us empirically).[1] However, the term is not very often used so strictly, so this form of rationalism is generally known in English-speaking philosophy as continental rationalism or Cartesian rationalism, as its original proponents, such as Ren Descartes, were largely situated in continental Europe.[2]

The term is more commonly used to refer to a synthesis of continental rationalism with its former rival philosophy, empiricism. This looser rationalism holds that empirical observation is more useful than intuition for gaining one's starting axioms, but one can use deductive reasoning from these axioms just as well. The best embodiment of this way of gaining knowledge is the scientific method; hence, rationalists tend to give high regard to science, designating it as the primary or sole proper source of truth.

RationalWiki is devoted to this sort of rational analysis of empirical evidence to form conclusions; most RationalWiki editors are very skeptical of other ways of knowing.

The idea of being "rational" is distinct and broader than the philosophy of rationalism. To be "rational" is synonymous with a "sane" or "functional" way of thinking. If one is "rational," then in common parlance this means that one can think clearly and is capable of intelligently assessing new ideas when presented.

The opposite term, "irrational," is used to signify someone who cannot or will not think clearly. If a thought or action is irrational, it signifies something that is not just incorrect, but perverse, insane, or beneath consideration.

Rationalism was first formulated in classical times by philosophers such as Socrates and Plato. Many of the Socratic dialogues would use a conversational process to work out logical inconsistencies in ideas that were held by contemporaries to be "common sense," such as the definition of "the good." In this historical sense Rationalism was distinct and separate from Empiricism (see below), as these early Rationalists didn't deem it necessary to use observation - in the modern use, Rationalists who would combine both the logical reasoning of Rationalism with the observational checks of Empiricism.

But at the time, virtually everyone even the great philosophers believed that various things were known by people inherently. Aside from a few schools of thought which suggested that nothing could ever be known as true (pyrrhonism), few thought to discard a priori beliefs and start from scratch with only that which was known to be true. Thus, at this point historical Rationalism closely resembled the way philosophers still define the philosophy.

The 16th century philosopher Descartes, however, attempted to create a whole philosophy through pure reason in his Discourse on Method and its succeeding works: he began with the only thing of which he thought he could be certain, that there was an "I" that was thinking - often rendered in the Latin of cogito ergo sum ("I think, therefore I am."). His process ushered in a new era in rationalism, concurrent with the greater Enlightenment. At that time the philosophy began to resemble modern empiricism more than its own ancient ancestor, especially during the era of Romanticism when Enlightenment ideas were challenged and sensory perception was given more of a hearing.

Loose use in the time since has led to the fuzzy state of the term today, particularly when combined with the similar but much broader notion of being rational.

Rationalism is a term of art in psychology referring to the school of thought that sees certain elements of cognition as innate. (For this reason, it is sometimes used synonymously with the terms "innatism" or "nativism.") Rationalism in psychology is identified with the philosophical tradition of the same name. During the 20th century, Noam Chomsky became associated with rationalism due to his positing the concept of an innate "language acquisition device."[3]

Rationalism, or "economic rationalism," is also a term of art in economics. It is generally used today in Australia to refer to the local brand of neoliberal economic and political policy, though it was also used by scholars such as Max Weber in reference to the Protestant work ethic.[4]

Rationalism is also used as a self-descriptor by followers of Eliezer Yudkowsky, and the community that has grown up around him (in particular the website LessWrong).[5] Scott Alexander argues that, in this context, it refers less to a particular set of beliefs (an ideology), but more to the social community those beliefs support, a "tribe".[5]

Another straightforward conception of rationality is that an individual acts rationally if they act in the way that, on reflection, they believe best suits achievement of their aims. This conception, naturally, gives rise to the common conception when on reflection it is believed that the aim of truth can best be achieved through factual analysis and the scientific method.

This approach, however, is problematic, as it denies the existence of any sort of objective logic independent of human perception. Many, on reflection, believe that astrology, Scientology, homeopathy and other ridiculous nonsense best suits achievement of their aims. If these people are to be held to be irrational, a new criterion must be put in the place of on reflection. Usually the criterion is modified such that the rational person must reasonably believe they have a methodology to achieve their aims, leaving question of what it means to reasonably believe that a methodology will achieve certain aims.[6]

Alvin Plantinga's concept of rationalism neatly distinguishes reason from "raving madness" by conceiving of reason as "not raving mad".[7] Of course Plantinga has to give us a good idea of what is not "raving mad", which he does with his concept of "proper function". Just as a clock, functioning properly, is a reliable indicator of the time, human senses, functioning properly, are reliable indicators of the world. Acting in accordance with the proper function of our faculties is rational.

The problem of what constitutes function, and proper function at that, is more than a question of what our faculties do (a fast clock tells the incorrect time, but this is not its function). Both function and proper function have an element of what things should be doing. As should is a difficult concept to introduce in a mechanistic description of how things happen to be, Plantinga sources the "should", the "purpose" of our faculties in a concept of God.

Critical rationalism ( Karl Popper) differentiates from the above conceptions of rationality by rejecting any positive content in reason. Reason, critical rationalism holds, does not provide 'reasons': it does not give positive recommendations about what beliefs should be held. Reason operates negatively, restricting the beliefs that can be held. It does this through criticism, subjecting pre-adopted beliefs to tests in an effort to refute them.

The dispute between rationalism and empiricism concerns the extent to which we are dependent upon sense experience in our effort to gain knowledge. Rationalists claim that there are significant ways in which our concepts and knowledge are gained independently of sense experience. Empiricists claim that sense experience is the ultimate source of all our concepts and knowledge.

Rationalists generally develop their view in two ways. First, they argue that there are cases where the content of our concepts or knowledge outstrips the information that sense experience can provide. Second, they construct accounts of how reason in some form or other provides that additional information about the world. Empiricists present complementary lines of thought. First, they develop accounts of how experience provides the information that rationalists cite, insofar as we have it in the first place. (Empiricists will at times opt for skepticism as an alternative to rationalism: if experience cannot provide the concepts or knowledge the rationalists cite, then we don't have them.) Second, empiricists attack the rationalists' accounts of how reason is a source of concepts or knowledge.

A serious problem for the Innate Knowledge thesis remains, however. We know a proposition only if it is true, we believe it and our belief is warranted. Rationalists who assert the existence of innate knowledge are not just claiming that, as a matter of human evolution, God's design or some other factor, at a particular point in our development, certain sorts of experiences trigger our belief in particular propositions in a way that does not involve our learning them from the experiences. Their claim is even bolder: In at least some of these cases, our empirically triggered, but not empirically warranted, belief is nonetheless warranted and so known. How can these beliefs be warranted if they do not gain their warrant from the experiences that cause us to have them or from intuition and deduction?

Some rationalists think that a reliabilist account of warrant provides the answer. According to Reliabilism, beliefs are warranted if they are formed by a process that generally produces true beliefs rather than false ones. The true beliefs that constitute our innate knowledge are warranted, then, because they are formed as the result of a reliable belief-forming process. Carruthers maintains that Innate beliefs will count as known provided that the process through which they come to be innate is a reliable one (provided, that is, that the process tends to generate beliefs that are true) (1992, p. 77). He argues that natural selection results in the formation of some beliefs and is a truth-reliable process.

An appeal to Reliabilism, or a similar causal theory of warrant, may well be the best way for rationalists to develop the Innate Knowledge thesis. They have a difficult row to hoe, however. First, such accounts of warrant are themselves quite controversial. Second, rationalists must give an account of innate knowledge that maintains and explains the distinction between innate knowledge and a posteriori knowledge, and it is not clear that they will be able to do so within such an account of warrant. Suppose for the sake of argument that we have innate knowledge of some proposition, P. What makes our knowledge that P innate? To sharpen the question, what difference between our knowledge that P and a clear case of a posteriori knowledge, say our knowledge that something is red based on our current visual experience of a red table, makes the former innate and the latter not innate? In each case, we have a true, warranted belief. In each case, presumably, our belief gains its warrant from the fact that it meets a particular causal condition, e.g., it is produced by a reliable process. In each case, the causal process is one in which an experience causes us to believe the proposition at hand (that P; that something is red), for, as defenders of innate knowledge admit, our belief that P is triggered by an experience, as is our belief that something is red. The insight behind the Innate Knowledge thesis seems to be that the difference between our innate and a posteriori knowledge lies in the relation between our experience and our belief in each case. The experience that causes our belief that P does not contain the information that P, while our visual experience of a red table does contain the information that something is red. Yet, exactly what is the nature of this containment relation between our experiences, on the one hand, and what we believe, on the other, that is missing in the one case but present in the other? The nature of the experience-belief relation seems quite similar in each. The causal relation between the experience that triggers our belief that P and our belief that P is contingent, as is the fact that the belief-forming process is reliable. The same is true of our experience of a red table and our belief that something is red. The causal relation between the experience and our belief is again contingent. We might have been so constructed that the experience we describe as being appeared to redly caused us to believe, not that something is red, but that something is hot. The process that takes us from the experience to our belief is also only contingently reliable. Moreover, if our experience of a red table contains the information that something is red, then that fact, not the existence of a reliable belief-forming process between the two, should be the reason why the experience warrants our belief. By appealing to Reliablism, or some other causal theory of warrant, rationalists may obtain a way to explain how innate knowledge can be warranted. They still need to show how their explanation supports an account of the difference between innate knowledge and a posteriori knowledge.

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Rationalism - RationalWiki

Rationalism: Examples and Definition | Philosophy Terms

I. Definition

Rationalism is the philosophy that knowledge comes from logic and a certain kind of intuitionwhen we immediately know something to be true without deduction, such as I am conscious. Rationalists hold that the best way to arrive at certain knowledge is using the minds rational abilities. The opposite of rationalism is empiricism, or the view that knowledge comes from observing the outside world. However, in practice almost all philosophers and scientists use a combination of empiricism and rationalism.

Rationalism is an idea about where knowledge comes from, and is therefore part of the philosophical sub-field of epistemology.

Math provides a good illustration of rationalism: to a rationalist, you dont have to observe the world or have experiences in order to know that 1+1=2. You just have to understand the concepts one and addition, and then you can know that its true. Empiricists, on the other hand, argue that this is not true; they point out that we can only rely on mathematical equations based on some experience of the world, for example having one cookie, being given another, and then having two.

Rationalism and empiricism both play a role in science, though they correspond to different branches of science. Rationalism corresponds to mathematical analysis, whereas empiricism corresponds to experiments and observation.

Of course, the best route to knowledge combines rational contemplation and empirical observation. Rationalists and empiricists agree on that; they just disagree on which one is more important or primary.

Constructivism is an effort to combine empiricism and rationalism. According to constructivists, we can observe the world around us and gain a lot of knowledge this way (thats the empiricist part), but in order to understand or explain what we know, we have to fit it into an existing structure. That is, we have to construct a rational set of ideas that can make sense of the empirical data (thats the rationalist part). Constructivism is a popular idea among teachers, who find it helpful in structuring lessons: constructivist teaching involves presenting new information in a way designed to fit in with what the student already knows, so that they can gradually build up an understanding of the world for themselves.

Many people think that the progress of the human race is based on experiences of an empirical, critical nature, but I say that true knowledge is to be had only through a philosophy of deduction . . . Intuition makes us look at unrelated facts and then think about them until they can all be brought under one law. (Albert Einstein)

Many people think of science as an inherently empirical discipline after all, its based mainly on observation and experiments, right? But theres also a rationalist side to science as seen in this quote from Einstein. Einstein was not big on experiments or peering through telescopes. Instead, he took data that other people had collected and tried to understand it rationally (i.e. mathematically). His brilliant theories of special and general relativity were not the results of new experiments, but rather the result of applying a keen rational eyeand intuitionto existing data.

Music has always been inseparable from religious expression, since, like religion at its best, music marks the limits of reason. Because a territory is defined by its extremities, it follows that music must be definitively rational. (Karen Armstrong)

Many rationalist philosophers are fascinated by music, for exactly the reasons that Karen Armstrong points out in this quote. Music is intensely rational in some ways (you can analyze its structures and frequencies and find all sorts of mathematical patterns there), but its also extremely emotional and seems to short-circuit our rational brains. Thus, music exists right on the boundary between rational and anti-rational. Armstrong also makes the more controversial, but no less interesting, claim that religion works in a similar way, operating at the boundaries between rational thought and non-rational emotions.

Rationalism has deep historical roots; you might even say that its discovery defines the birth of philosophy in various cultures. The ancient Greeks are probably the most famous example: ancient philosophers such as Plato and Pythagoras argued that reality is characterized by some basic abstract logical principles, and that if we know these principles, then we can derive further truths about reality. (Thats the same Pythagoras who invented the famous Pythagorean Theorem more evidence of the connection between rationalism and math.)

However, other Greeks disagreed. Aristotle, for example, based much of his philosophy on observation. He was fascinated by the natural world and spent much of his time gathering samples of plants and animals; in some ways he was the first modern biologist. This method is, of course, based on observation and therefore is a kind of empiricism.

Rationalism really took off in the Medieval Islamic world, where Muslim philosophers looked to Plato for inspiration. Platos rationalism proved to be extremely important to medieval Islam, which was an intensely rationalistic religion based on logical deduction. Its first principle was tawheed, or the Unity of God, and all other truths were thought to be logical consequences of that single revelation.

Both rationalism and empiricism played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. Empiricists did experiments and made observations by, for example, looking through telescopes. But many of the most important discoveries were made by rational analysis, not empirical observation. And of course, the experiments were also partially inspired by reason and intuition.

Isaac Newton developed his theory of gravity by working out the mathematical relationship between falling objects and orbiting planets. (Sometimes people say that Newton discovered gravity, but really its more accurate to say that he explained gravity.)

The debate between rationalists and empiricists was resolved to some extent by Immanuel Kant, one of the most influential philosophers who ever lived. Kants theory was that empiricism and rationalism were both true in their own ways: he agreed with the empiricists when he said that all human knowledge comes from observation. This, he said, is in fact the way that people learn about the world. But our observations are also based on certain innate ways of reasoning; our brains are hard-wired to make certain conclusions from observation and reason further in certain ways. So, he also agreed with the rationalists that knowledge is determined by rationality. As you might expect, many constructivists can trace their lineage back to Kant.

In Civilization V, one of the social policy options is Rationalism. This social policy improves science output for your civilization and allows you to produce more Great Scientists. This makes sense since rationalism was so important in the early scientific revolution. However, the game illustrates rationalism with a picture of a scientist looking through a prism, presumably as part of an experiment. So the picture would fit better under the heading of empiricism rather than rationalism!

Vulcanians do not speculate. I speak from pure logic. (Spock, Star Trek)

Spock is the perfect rationalist. His powerful brain can compute logical probabilities faster than any human being, and he is not distracted by pesky emotions or personal biases (at least most of the time; he is half-human, after all). He is capable of incredible feats of logic, such as playing three-dimensional chess.

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Rationalism: Examples and Definition | Philosophy Terms