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Ovi Symposium; sixty-fifth Meeting Ovi Symposium; sixty-fifth Meeting
by The Ovi Symposium
2016-01-15 09:34:22
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Ovi Symposium:

“A Philosophical Conversation on the Nature of Art within Modernity
and the Envisioning of a New Humanism”

between Mr Nikos Laios, Drs. Ernesto Paolozzi and Emanuel Paparella
Sixty-fifth Meeting: 15 January 2016

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Symposium's regular participants (in alphabetical order)

laios_01Nikos Laios is a poet, artist, lover of philosophy and student of the human condition, currently writing poetry and producing art; he is also a sculptor, a photographer, widely read in the humanities. He hails from the highlands of Epirus in Greece; greatly influenced by the poetic traditions which have been passed down from his poet ancestor on his maternal side from the island of Cephalonia. He currently resides in North Sydney Australia, is an autodidact and a passionate ‘renaissance’ man, has always been a practical philosopher, throwing himself into the hard questions that life has to offer in search of elusive gems of wisdom.

enDr.Ernesto Paolozzi teaches history of contemporary philosophy at the University Suor Orsola Benincasa of Naples. A Croce scholar and an expert on historicism, he has written widely and published several books, especially on aesthetics and liberalism vis a vis science. His book Benedetto Croce: The Philosophy of History and the Duty of Freedom was printed as an e-book in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

papDr. Emanuel Paparella has a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism with a dissertation on Giambattista Vico from Yale University. He currently teaches philosophy at Barry University and Broward College in Florida, USA. One of his books is titled Hermeneutics in the Philosophy of G. Vico, Mellen Press. His latest e-book Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers was printed in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

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Subtheme of session 64: “The Nexus between Love of Truth and Love of Nature”

Indirect Participants within the Great Conversation across the ages: Goethe, Eco, Hadot, Pascal, Francis of Assisi, Heraclitus, Rilke, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Vico, Plato, Kant, Nietzsche, Shelling, Sartre, Marleau-Ponty, Galileo, Bacon, Descartes, Hofstadter, Aristotle, Aquinas, Mc Luhan, Joyce, Pound, Descartes, Koestler, Chesterton, Montaigne, Byron, Keats, Gilgamesh, Spinoza, Attenborough, Curie.

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Table of Contents for the 64th Session of the Ovi Symposium (15 January 2016)

Preamble by the Symposium’s coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 1: “Love of Truth and Love of Nature: A Poetic Metaphorical Nexus”  A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 2:“Aesthetics as Linguistics and Art as Language”  A Presentation by Ernesto Paolozzi

Section 3: “Our Blue Globe: the New Covenant” A Presentation by Nikos Laios

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Preamble by the Symposium’s Coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella
(Ovi Symposium 65)

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This 65th meeting of the Ovi Symposium was partly inspired not only by the recent Paris global conference (COP 21) on Climate Change and the survival of humankind, but also  by two recent timely articles that appeared in Ovi magazine regarding the same conference: one by the editor in chief of the same magazine Thanos Kalamidas, titled “Compromising environment & failing humanity,” and the other by Anis H. Bajrektarevic titled “Ecological Globalism—Political Terroristan—From Paris, Of Nearly Everything.” In part, this issue of the Ovi Symposium is conceived as a dialogue of sorts with those two perceptive articles claiming, among other things, that what was accomplished in Paris is a mere compromise, what is needed is a total courageous uncompromising solution to the vexing problem of climate change, one which dares to contemplate the ultimate demise of a system—the Capitalistic system-- that dehumanizes Man while destroying nature in the process. Also quite timely is Professor Bajrektarevic’s insistence that Man is well equipped with the necessary intelligence and cognition to solve the problem; what is still needed however is the political will to do so aiming at the common good.

In short, what we are about to explore in this issue of the Symposium is the nexus between Truth and Nature which many associate with the beginning of modernity, with Goethe who conceived of Nature as an open book from which we could learn everything, even Ethics, but in reality it is a problem that goes back to the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus who coined the expression “nature loves to hide.” The modern semiologist Umberto Eco follows up on such an insight with his tongue in cheeck quip that “nature is a shy maiden and does not like to be seen naked.”

That brings us to two stimulating and influential books: one by the French philosopher, Pierre Hadot, titled  The Veil of Isis, and the other by the Canadian philosopher Marshall Mc Luhan, The Act of Creation. In the first presentation Paparella explores the boundaries of those books focusing on their metaphors in order to derive some insights which may be useful to modern positivistic man searching for purely scientific materialistic solutions to the current problem of the rape of nature and climate change, blissfully unaware that the problem is less a scientific problem and more a human one. It is a problem well identified by Blasé Pascal when he quipped that “the heart has reasons that reason knows not.” That may sound slightly anti-intellectual or even anti-Enlightenment but it is merely a way of saying that a holistic approach to what keeps us humans is the recognition that we are made of both intellect (which allows us to live in the intelligible realm) and emotions (which allows us to live in the poetical realm); we need both and to separate the two is to end up with a truncated humanity, for the two are complementary to each other. To that purpose Paparella also examines (or better, re-examines) Marshall Mc Luhan’s juxtaposition of two other powerful metaphors: that of the rear-view mirror, and that of the whirlpool.

Given that beauty is found not only in art as created by man but also in nature, in fact it may be the beauty of nature that inspires that of art, the question arises: is there a linguistic message within nature? Most poets would have no hesitation to answer affirmatively, but there are philosophers too who would concur. In the second presentation titled Aesthetics as Linguistics and Art as Language, once again Paolozzi shows us that the best endowed philosopher, since Plato who in his Symposium starts the inquiry into the meaning of Beauty, to answer this question in modern times is Benedetto Croce. As usual, Paolozzi masterfully reviews for us Croce’s ideas about aestheticism vis a vis the human mind and the human condition; notions these which have deeply influenced the modern sensibility for Beauty.

In the third presentation Nikos Laios continues the exploration of the nexus between truth and nature and gives us a beautiful poetic excursus into the world of nature and the aesthetic sensibility. He mentions the insights about nature, beauty, the very survival of humankind as eloquently expressed by Byron, Keats, Spinoza, Attenborough and Madame Curie, among others, and delves into the world of mythology, so intimately related to the world of the poetic. Most importantly, he proposed that, for our very survival we urgently need a new covenant, a sacred covenant between Mother Nature and Humankind.

With this particular issue of the symposium, we hope, to have started a fresh new conversation on environmental issues at the intersection of myth, poetry and philosophy. We look forward to more of these treatments.

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1

 Love of Nature and Love of Truth: a Poetic Metaphorical Nexus 
A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

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St. Francis of Assisi Contemplating Nature

What prompts the entrepreneurs of our brave new world to embrace technology as a way of tearing the veil from Nature in order to force her to reveal her deepest secrets? More bluntly put: what has caused the rape of Nature by modern man, that nature which a medieval man such as St. Francis of Assisi dubbed our Mother Earth? To get an answer to those three questions we need to return to the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus who uttered the cryptic words "Phusis kruptesthai philei" usually translated as "Nature loves to hide." Nature in fact is the subject of a perceptive book, The Veil of Isis, by Pierre Hadot. The allegorical figure of the veiled goddess Isis is already alluded within modernity by the likes of Goethe, Rilke, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger. In other words, Hadot traces for us successive interpretations of Heraclitus' words.

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The Veil of Isis by Pierre Hadot (2004)

Hadot was a philosophy professor whose specialization was the philosophy of nature, an interest he picked up from Bergson. This interest in nature culminates with the publication of Le Voile d’Isis which was only published six years before his death in 2010. In that book Hadot distinguishes two attitudes of man toward nature: the Promethean approach wherein man tries to force nature to unveil herself and reveal her secrets to better exploit her (the entrepreneurial enterprise obsesses with market growth and profits); the other is the Orphic attitude an aesthetic approach wherein one listens attentively to nature, and recognizes the potential dangers of revealing all her secrets. That warning had already come from Vico in the 18th century when he pointed out that we can only know fully what we ourselves have made, while Nature, which we have not made, will always remain mysterious despite the great advances of science, and keep some secrets from us.

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The Beauty of Nature conceived as a book on Truth and Ethics as written by the Divine Poet

To be sure the Orphic naturalist also wishes to discover Nature’s secrets but “he confines himself to perception, without instruments and using the resources of philosophical and poetic discourse or those of pictorial art” (p. 155). In this he “imitates the artistic game of that poet of the universe, the divinity” (p. 156). Hadot identifies Plato’s Timaeus as the exemplar of the Orphic approach; it recreates a conjectural model of the universe’s genesis and structure, a contemplation that “achieves amazement before the world’s beauty.” (p. 219), radically different from the Promethean technique in as much as it is non-experimental, merely discursive. This brings to mind the opposition between theoretical physics and experimental science and the famous answer of Einstein who when asked why he pursued astronomy, answered: “Because I wish to know the thoughts in the mind of God,” and answer not too dissimilar from Augustine’s insightful premise that “the Universe is a thought in the mind of God.”

Then in chapter 7 Hadot identifies nature with Isis and Artemis as a veiled goddess. The trope of Nature’s secret now assumes a dichotomy between the inner and the outer: the Promethean must penetrate from the outside into the interior, while the Orphic is happy just to contemplate. Hadot quotes Goethe: “Mysterious in broad daylight, Nature does not let herself be robbed of her veil, and what she does not wish to reveal to your mind, you could not constrain her to do with levers and screws.” Heidegger later on will write that it is the obviousness of Nature and our taking it for granted that hides it from our awareness.

In chapter 21 titled “The Sacred Shudder” Hadot discusses how the aesthetic approach introduces “an emotional, sentimental and irrational element into the relation between mankind and nature” (p. 263). This is also something Kant discusses in hisCritique of Judgment; the terror we feel in the face of nature’s sublimity.

In chapter 22 Hadot takes up the shuddering the Orphics feel when confronted with the prospect of a naked Nature. He quotes Nietzsche who, like the Greeks, does not wish to unveil truth: “We no longer believe that the truth is still the truth, if its veils are taken away form it…Perhaps Truth is a woman who has reasons for not wanting to let her reasons be seen? Perhaps her name, if we were to speak Greek, is Baubo?”

In the last chapter Hadot argues that the trope of the “secret of nature” needs to be abandoned, for in Shelling and Heidegger, Sartre and Marleau-Ponty, locates what comes next: the mystery of Being and the anguish the human being feels when confronted with it. And yet Heidegger keeps on speaking of “unveiling” of truth. He is aware that science having reached its Promethean apotheosis, it is now in vogue to speak of “revealing,” “unlocking,” “decoding,” “the secrets of the universe.” He seems to saying that since the Promethean attitude of exploitation and manipulation of nature has dominated science as well as nature since Galileo and Francis Bacon and Descartes, the Orphic attitude has consequently changed from one of wonder and awe and reverence for the beauty of nature, which was there since the Stoics, to anguish and terror at what the Promethean man has done to her transforming her into a monstrosity.

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The way to do that is to simply deny the truth about her, to wit the present bunch of Republican presidential contenders, none excepted, who in one way or other deny even the scientific evidence as long as the  party’s extreme social Darwinian ideology is not compromised. Take the issue of climate change. While the climate talks in Paris could potentially mark a turning point in solving the problem of global warming, the “thought police” within the Republican party makes sure that the party orthodoxy on the subject is upheld: that orthodoxy dictates that there is no man-made global climate; which in effect means that the Republicans are perfectly willing to doom Nature and with it the whole of humankind. They’re in fact on constant attack against the science of climate change, with the latest salvo two House bills passed December 1 that undermine Environmental Protection Agency rules (the president will of course veto them).

In a way, this is part of a long tradition: Richard Hofstadter’s famous essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” was published half a century ago but it remains relevant. And if that is not insanity then nothing is. Indeed, climate-denial orthodoxy doesn’t just say that the scientific consensus is wrong. Senior Republican members of Congress routinely indulge in wild conspiracy theories, alleging that all the evidence for climate change is the product of a giant hoax perpetrated by thousands of scientists around the world. And they do all they can to harass and intimidate individual scientists.

In his Poetics Aristotle set forth the metaphor as the true mark of genius. For him the most extensive form of metaphor was metaphor by analogy. Moreover, in Medieval times Thomas Aquinas’ philosophy places great emphasis on analogy as a way of making proportionate relations. A poetic, imaginative way of thinking, as pointed out later by Vico in his The New Science, leads one back to the future via language, rhetoric and history and to the realization that at its origins the form and the content, or the medium and the message are one and the same thing.

That having been prefaced, I’d like to now explore two other fascinating metaphors, that of the rear-view mirror and that of the whirlpool.  In the metaphor of the rear-view mirror utilized by the Canadian thinker Marshall McLuhan, what immediately catches the reader’s attention is the discontinuous juxtaposition of past and future straddled by that metaphor. It is meant to startle the reader with its witticism: back to the future! Both parts of the discontinuity are needed however, or the metaphor will simply lose its startling wit.

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The Rear-view Mirror as Metaphor

 As his studies on Joyce (an author also greatly inspired by Vico) clearly suggest, for Mc Luhan the world is a network of analogies which one can read from the book of nature patterned by and revealing an overall intelligence. But for him metaphors are much more than mere analogies coming out of the past. They are very much related to the present. Take the above metaphor of the rear-view mirror which is utilized as a way of examining present cultural phenomena. In his book War and Peace in the Global Village McLuhan discusses at length how he uses the rear-view mirror of Pound and Joyce; how the rear-view mirror is a way to understand the present and envision the future without predetermining and trivializing it, allowing it to surprise us.

In his Gutenberg Galaxie (whose very title is a metaphor), Mc Luhan uses the metaphor of surfboarding to understand intellectual activities such as philosophizing about education and says that “Heidegger surfboards along on the electronic wave as triumphantly as Descartes rode the mechanical wave” (p. 248). Here we have a metaphor with a covert analogy but also an explicit analogy comparing Heidegger’s and Descartes’ activities vis-à-vis their respective historical ages. The aim is to point to the inadequacies of the Cartesian rationalistic paradigm for an electric post-modern age. Vico was painfully aware of that inadequacy way back in 1710.

Arthur Koestler too has shown in his The Act of Creation that what makes this technique of analogy work is that the seeds of creativity are implicit in the witty metaphor. By exploring the relationship the reader participates in a recognition of similarities and differences. G.K. Chesterton as well was known for the use of the witty metaphor and analogy. But, to continue with the rear-view mirror metaphor, by the time one has finished exploring its notion, one begins to recognizes the insecurity of our age about the Vichian concept of history and its relationship to the process of acceleration in the world around us. We cannot do without our technology but we are also aware that it leaves us breathless and devoid of reflection on how best to utilize it.

But to get to that recognition the explorer (Mc Luhan liked to think of himself as somebody who probes and charts new territory with tentative maps) has first to understand the usefulness of that rear-view mirror for the rediscovery of traditional sources in humanism, literature, history and philosophical thought. He/she has to conceive the world as if it were an artifact, nature turned art and read not only as nature but as containing cultural objects made by Man within nature. He/she may even have to switch from an activist to a contemplative mode of being. This too is a Vichian operation: cultural objects conceived as a reflection of the self and as such leading to self-knowledge. In other words, Man is his own history. To tell that history or his own story (in Italian the word "storia" encompasses both) Man needs to narrate it to himself.

Montaigne saw the essay as a presentation of the self, while Pascal’s definition of the traditional essay was that of a “peinture de la pensée,” i.e. a painting of the mind in action. This recording of the mind in action has strong affinities with poetry. And in fact Pascal, who was also a great mathematician, creates his work out of the arrangement of discontinuous presentations of aphorisms: words differently arranged, mean different things. Consider his inimitable “the heart has reasons that reason knows not.” Discontinuity rather than linear flow is indeed the characteristic of an electric age. As the quantity of information increases astronomically, juxtaposition, where many possibilities can be suggested at the same time, becomes almost a natural mode of composition. An example of this is the modern multi-image and the multi-screen film.

Thomas Aquinas held that the only way to teach was to lead the student’s mind through the processes of his own mind, i.e., a retracing of the processes of cognition. If one examines carefully the plethora of Mc Lullan’s essays one will discover that each essay follows this process. So there is a definite similarity between the medieval and the modern in as much as McLuhan takes a technique which is medieval and translates it into modern terms.

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If Bacon read nature as a book, McLuhan views the landscape of our age as a sort of television documentary. Now, the futurists and the post-moderns may condemn as irrelevant this kind of investigation of the origins of McLuhan’s method. To them, what is, and not how it came to be, is what really matters; they focus on the future and prefer binoculars to rear-view mirrors. But that attitude remains inadequate, for the very forces that McLuhan uses exist now by virtue of the fact that he uses them in his essays.

Like Vico, Mc Luhan makes history important by making it here and now in the tracing of its origins and by way of understanding the now. And indeed, without discussion of the Greeks, Humanism, the Christian Middle Ages and the Renaissance, it would not be possible to see what is actually happening in the current period. Hence the importance of the metaphor of the rear-view mirror.

But there is another important metaphor for Mc Luhan: that of the vortex. He was fascinated with that image. In fact he ends his book of essays The Medium is the Massage with a presentation of Poe’s vertical image from “The Descent into the Maelstrom” where the mariner saves himself by understanding the action of the whirlpool. For Mc Luhan, this stands for the technique that moderns must adapt as “a possible stratagem for understanding our present predicament, our electrically-configured whirl”. The present is here married to the past, thus following the Vichian-Joycean aesthetic method: the simultaneous juxtaposition of the mythic past and the realistic present.

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The Whirlpool as a metaphor

The silver lining in all of this is that, as Vico has well taught us, the gods return and after we have managed to dehumanize ourselves by incestuously violating the natural taboo and raping our own Mother Earth, the possibility remains for a return to the Vichian poetic era of the gods, to a renewed appreciation of beauty and the aesthetics. Heidegger, referring to the devastation of Promethean technological man on nature exclaimed pessimistically that “only a god can save us now.” But Vico is not so pessimistic, exactly because he is not as deterministic as Heidegger: man has the ability to change course and thus save himself from the whirlpool that is about to swallow him, which, come to think of it, it is apt description of the present predicament of our Western Civilization. For the return of the gods also means a return of the imaginative and the poetic and the humane, a return to the appreciation of beauty and to the Greek notion that the Good, the True and the Beautiful are one and practically inseparable, a notion this that could heal us pointing the way to a return to sanity, and ultimately prove to be salvific, were we, like St. Francis of Assisi, contemplate and venerate her as our Mother. 

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2

 Aesthetics as Linguistics and Art as Language
(from the last chapter of Paolozzi’s book The Aesthetics of Benedetto Croce)
A Presentation by Ernesto Paolozzi

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The Philosopher of Aesthetics Benedetto Croce

If art is intuition, and if intuition is always expression, then art is language. This conclusion to which Croce arrives and to which he returns in all his conclusions, beginning with his book titled Aesthetics as Science of Expression and General Linguistic, is of utmost importance, even if not always easily understood. As Croce puts it: “Aesthetics as science of expression has been studied by me under every aspect. Nevertheless, it still behooves me to justify its sub-title of General Linguistic which I have added to its title and propose and clarify the thesis that the science of art and that of language, i.e., Aesthetics and Linguistics, as true sciences, are not two distinct sciences but only one science” (Estetica come scienza dell’espressione e linguistic generale, p. 161, 1902).

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An ancient book on the poetics of science and beauty

In the first place we ought to attempt an understanding of what constitutes language for Croce, otherwise his theoretical stance remains incomprehensible. In this instance, language does not refer to the language of literary people, or the language of institutions, or the language of a people, nor the codified language of grammars and dictionaries. Language is not to be understood as the great linguist Saussure defined as langue (that is to say, the organic and structural whole of a particular language) but what he defined as parole, or creative language. In fact Croce asserts that “the philosophy of language is not a philosophical grammar, but is beyond all grammars and does not render philosophical grammatical classes, rather it ignores them, and when it meets them, it destroys them; which is to say, that the philosophy of language is one and the same as the philosophy of the poetical and the artistic, with the science of intuition-expression, and with aesthetics…” (Croce, Aesthetica in nuce, 1935, p 26).

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Having established that much it becomes almost superfluous to remember that language should be understood as any form of expression, even the most simple gesture of a primitive man, since with such a gesture he expresses a particular gesture of his particular individual reality. Expressivity, which is always creative and imaginative even when it is very elementary, is constituent of a common element of every artistic expression, of every language, of painting, of sculpture, from geometry to cinematographic expression, and so on. This is what Croce derives from ancient philosophic tradition, from Vico to Humboldt, which intersects modern linguistic as thematized by Sapir.

A fundamental aspect of Crocean thought is that there is no expressive aspect of human life which is not in some way tied to art. In order for philosophy and science to express themselves they must individuate themselves. Even the most abstract and universal logical reasoning must be expressed, must find words, signs, particular symbols. As Croce puts it: “The concept has the character of expressivity, which is to say it is a descriptive work and as such it must be expressed or spoken; it is not a dumb act of the spirit, as a practical action would be in itself. To put to a first test the effective possession of a concept we can use an experiment which I have advised on another occasion: invite anyone who claims to possess it to express it with words or other means of expression (graphic symbols or similar things). If the interlocutor refuses to do so claiming that his concept is so deep that words cannot translate it, one can be sure that either he is deluding himself that he is in possession of a concept and in reality he possesses only nebulous phantasms or pieces of ideas, which is to say that such a deep concept is only vaguely grasped or at most it has begun to be formed but in reality he has no possession of it” (Logica come scienza del concetto puro, 1905, p. 26). 

A philosophical or scientific idea (even the coldest or driest), when it is well expressed (that is to say, if has scientific or philosophical validity) has its own style, as Croce asserts or as all those who distinguish the style of Galileo or Newton, of Aristotle or Hegel, well know.

Croce’s Aesthetics concludes with those words: “These observations ought to be enough to demonstrate that all scientific problems are the same as those of aesthetics, and the mistakes and the truth of one are the same as those of the other. The reason that linguistics and aesthetics seem two different sciences is due to the fact that with the first one we think of grammar, or a mixture of philosophy and grammar, or an arbitrary mnemonic outline, not a rational science or a pure philosophy of speech. Grammar, or what is certain in the grammatical, generates prejudice in the mind, given that the reality of speech consists of isolated words that can be combined, and not in living speeches, in expressive organisms which are rationally indivisible.

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Linguists and glottologists with philosophical talent who have best deepened the issues of linguistics, are in the condition of a workers in a tunnel (to use an abused but effective image): at a certain point they need to be able to hear the voice of their fellow workers, i.e., the philosophers of Aesthetics, which have begun on the other side, a certain grade of scientific elaboration, linguistics, in as much as it is philosophy, it must join with aesthetics; a joining that in fact leaves no residues” (Estetica, 1935, p. 71).

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Thus ends one of the most celebrated philosophy books of the 20th century, a book that is loved and hated, discussed or despised, a book which has influenced generations upon generations of scholars, not only within philosophy, but perhaps even more in literary, musical, artistic criticism. A book which reveals tracts of extreme modernity, as well as some residue of 19thcentury philosophy. But throughout its theme, one can always detect the preoccupation of conferring to art an autonomous value which is due to it within the intricate journey of life. Which is the equivalent of declaring art’s absolute freedom.

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3

Our Blue Globe: The New Covenant
by Nikos Laios

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The Earth as Seen from the Moon

Stars are born and then they collapse and die, as our sun will one day extinguishing all life on this planet earth. When we look up in wonder at the sky sometime on some clear fresh night lying on a field of grass on some mountain slope holding the delicate hand of a loved one, we see spread out before our eyes the history of the cosmos. Remnants of stars and constellations, and new ones being born in swirling gaseous colors of white, blue, reds, yellows, and pinks; and in amongst all this hanging suspended in the blackness of the heavens is our previous ephemeral glowing blue globe thriving with life, quivering like a crystal tear in a meaningless universe. A precious blue dot, a beacon shinning though space and time. It is at these times when one achieves a celestial communion that the realization dawns on how precious our life is, the planet and its environment upon which our lives play out on like a timeless play or drama, one generation after another. The question then has to be asked, how will the final acts play out in our drama of life? How will this tapestry of life unfold if we have no planet, if we destroy that which is the most precious thing in the cosmos, our glowing fragile blue planet earth? Yes the sun will fail one day, but until that day comes, we have this one planet to live on with a growing burgeoning population and finite resources; and what will we as a species do about this?

These profound topics alas are lost on our present generation across the globe at the moment in a background of nihilism and lost hope. The rise and fall of economies built on sand and the subsequent preoccupation of its populations in pushing their boulders daily up hills of their own making. The petulant and adolescent behavior of nations playing out ancient rivalries across the world in various geographical theatres vying for prestige and resources; or the religious dystopian death cults like ISIS that ignore the reality of the beauty of the world by offering a false salvation and hope to counter the alienation and lost hope of the Muslim world, of some kind of better life in illusory afterlife teeming with virgins.  At our peril, humanity takes it for granted that we are only a part of this world and not above it; and that it is lost on most that the answers to our existential crisis also lies in this beautiful blue globe.

Astronauts are some of the fortunate few that get to witness the fragile beauty of our world suspended and floating in space with the oceans, rivers, valleys and mountain peaks gliding underneath them. Along with the plumes and columns of smoke rising from forest fires burning across the shrinking forests of Brazil, or in Indonesia all for a temporary and selfish economic imperative of a greedy few, whilst all they are achieving is destroying the lungs of the world. Indeed, astronauts are the very fortunate few that can witness the elegance of creation, but is it only the position of astronauts to be able to see things clearly as they are, can we as individuals detach ourselves from our time and place and achieve transcendence to see things how they really are?

The survival of our planet and its environment seems to be the domain of the environmentalists at present. Where they have been called loons and radicals, but the question has to be asked, are they so crazy after all? and is it time that the rest of us start to take up the fight? The philosophy of environmentalism as such is relatively new, which is a movement of thought regarding the preservation, restoration and protection of the environment. To achieve a balance between humanity and the natural systems upon which we have depend on for both our physical survival and our existential definition.

The first stirrings of an environmentalist consciousness occurred in 1272 when King Edward the 1st of England banned the burning if sea-coal after smoke became an environmental problem.The advent of the industrial revolution in the nineteenth century was an achievement in that it raised humanity from the dark ages of serfdom to a material prosperity. A prosperity that increased the health and wellbeing of masses of people enabling them to also have free time within which culture, arts and the sciences flourished like they never have before. However, it also brought with it increased levels of smoke pollution and chemical discharges that mingled with human waste. The first large-scale environmentalist act - The Alkali Acts - was passed in England in 1863 to regulate deleterious gaseous hydrologic acids that were pumped into the air, and were given off as a byproduct by the Le Blanc process which was used to produce coal ash; and where it later became to be known as the Alkali Order of 1958. Then right through the twentieth century various animal conservation and environmental laws and acts were passed around the world, with the clean air act of 1956.

Our planet earth is not just a resource that sustains our physical existence and materialistic needs, but has formed and influenced our concept of our identity and the self. For our self and identity have been shaped and molded by the collected memories and experiences that have occurred within a particular culture that developed in a particular natural and geographic environment. Our sensory perceptual attention devices of sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing, equilibrium and balance suck in external stimuli that occur in the environment where we interpret and perceive the world around us by these stimuli neurologically through the limiting filters of the nurturing of a particular culture balanced by our instincts. Therefore how we make sense of the world around us --and as incomplete and as inaccurate as our perceptions can be at times - are due to our very interrelationship with the word around us. So the planet and the protection of the environment also becomes essential existential and philosophical requirements for humanity. The famous English poet Lord Byron once stated: "There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore; There is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not man the less, but nature more."  Indeed, how true are these words and what a world it would be if more people and civilizations felt and acted out the sentiments of these words.

The English poet John Keats once said; "the poetry of the earth is never dead", for indeed the earth has been a fertile ground for the poetry and imagination of man's soul to pour out onto its fertile ground to spawn life in the shape of myths and beliefs that has been a framework within which humanity has developed a spiritual connection and relationship with world which has defined and given man a sense of meaning to his life. In the religious and mythological beliefs of the Abrahamic religions, the patriarchal figure of Noah was chosen by God for the continued existence of life on earth after God decided to flood and destroy the world because of man's evil misdeeds.

The creation-flood myth also appears in other religions and cultures; the Mesopotamian 'Epic of Gilgamesh' composed some 2,500 years ago also contains a flood myth almost identical to that of Noah's. In Ancient Greek mythology, Deucalion son of Prometheus was warned by the gods of an impending flood, built an arc and filled it with creatures. When he completed his voyage, Deucalion sent out a pigeon to find out about the world, where the pigeon returned with an olive branch, and after which Deucalion repopulated the world.

What the projection of these quaint creation myths shows is firstly the importance of the world to humanity, but also the ego of man to dare to place himself about all other creatures on this world, to think that he is above them and the earth is his plaything, to use its resources as he wishes. It is this relationship between man and the earth that needs reconsidering, for man is only a part of this world just like any other species - yes an apex species - but a part of the fascinating and rich biodiversity of this world never the less, and the sooner we realize this, a better balance and relationship with the earth can be achieved. The Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza once said; "Whatsoever is contrary to nature is contrary to reason, and whatsoever is contrary to reason is absurd", yet the very age that we live in is one that is both strange and absurd. A study of the animals in the various ecosystems around the world one finds a balance and harmony that sustains existence, yet man for awhile now has lived out of balance with both nature and himself.

Vast fleets of massive fishing trawlers with drift nets cleaving the frothing waves to clean out and harvest the oceans empty as sheets of plastic and rubbish detritus of human civilization covers the once clean oceans. To the factories in China that churn out coal ash and smoke that slowly asphyxiates its ailing population in China's race to climb up the industrial and capitalist pegging of the developed world. While in Saudi Arabia the barren yellow golden sand dunes covers a vast reservoir of oil which is pumped out by a static tribal culture to satiate man's insatiable need to feed its industries while its mullahs spill out and preach vile anachronistic primitive beliefs around the world, preaching violence and bile. To the shell-shocked Europeans still suffering from the haunted nightmares of the violence and blood shed by their own hands over the last two hundred years all for the sake of competition for national primacy and prestige and a competition also for resources. Moreover, in the Americas, nations have been built on the marrow and bones of long lost and vanquished peoples and civilizations which have disappeared by the act genocide at the hands of their new conquerors. A world at present where tectonic ice floes of refugees flows across the world in their hopeless and Sisyphean drive to find an illusory utopia that does not exist at all. This misery, competition and violence all caused by the hand of man himself, completely out of balance and synchronicity with the universe. Yes the universe is a violent, dynamic and turbulent place, but one filled with wonder and awe.

At times, I wish I were one of those simple plastic bags that gently swirls in the breeze floating upwards with the leaves In silence in some desolate street under the twinkling stars. Swirling upwards over brick walls, chimneys and rooftops. Over steaming lamps and curled up tramps;

The rustling trees and surging seas. The blinking lights fading away, with the window shutters flapping against the walls and the swaying shop signs as the cat arches and rubs its back against the window pane watching the rapping rain. To be that simple transparent plastic bag floating above the world surveying it all; soaring, soaring, sailing in bliss, a witness to both the beauty and the desolation. This writer now lives in Sydney Australia, in a thriving and busy metropolis offering all the comforts and delights that a man could want and enjoy in peace and prosperity, yet it is missing something like all major cities do, and is just a little more cold and alienated for it. Yet at times, I reflect back upon the life I used to know in my mountain highland village of Elati, in Epirus, Greece and to its simple and noble people filled with warmth, humanity and charity in their hearts and I ask the question who is the more wealthy, we here or they there?

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Elati, Epirus, Greece

The world famous English naturalist David Attenborough once stated; "If we and the rest of the back-boned animals were to disappear overnight, the rest of the world would get on pretty well. But if the invertebrates were to disappear, the world's ecosystems would collapse." That is the truth of it all, and what is the answer to our imbalance with nature? Thus far, humanity has walked into the dark cavernous bowels of our dark shadow, walked with the shadows, and returned to the light to soar and wax lyrical with angels and to create words, thoughts and actions of magnificent beauty. We have thus far made many divine covenants with the various gods during the ages, but why not form a covenant with the earth itself? For the earth has nourished both our body and soul from the moment that we climbed up out of the green sludge. Mankind needs to recover its wonderment and the poetry of the world, and this is why our artists and poets are so vitally important to our future, for they illuminate windows to the eternal mystery and beauty of the cosmos. And here I'll leave the last words to the Nobel Prize winning scientist Marie Curie who once said; "all my life through, the new sights of nature made me rejoice like a child."

 

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 END  OF 65th SESSION OF THE  OVI  SYMPOSIUM (15/01/2016)

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Intro - P. 1 - P. 2 

2nd Meeting - 3rd Meeting - 4th Meeting - 5th Meeting - 6th Meeting - 7th Meeting - 8th Meeting -

9th Meeting - 10th Meting - 11th Meeting - 12th Meeting - 13th Meeting - 14th Meeting - 15th Meeting -

16th Meeting - 17th Meeting - 18th Meeting - 19th Meeting - 20th Meeting - 21st Meeting -

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28th Meeting -29th Meeting - 30th Meeting - 31st Meeting - 32nd Meeting - 33rd Meeting -

34th Meeting -35th Meeting - 36th Meeting - 37th Meeting - 38th Meeting - 39th Meeting -

40th Meeting -41st Meeting - 42nd Meeting - 43rd Meeting - 44th Meeting - 45th Meeting -

46th Meeting - 47th Meeting - 48th Meeting - 49th Meeting - 50th Meeting - 51st Meeting -

52nd Meeting -53rd Meeting - 54th Meeting - 55th Meeting - 56th Meeting - 57th Meeting -

58th Meeting -59th Meeting - 60th Meeting - 61st Meeting - 62nd Meeting - 63rd Meeting -

64th Meeting -65th Meeting -

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