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Ovi Symposium; fifty-fifth Meeting
by The Ovi Symposium
2015-07-02 10:12:38
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 Ovi Symposium:

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

between Ms Abigail George, Mr Nikos Laios, Drs. Paolozzi and Paparella
Fifty-fifth Meeting: 02 July 2015



Symposium's regular participants (in alphabetical order)

abigailAbigail George is an African activist for human rights, a feminist, writer and poet. She has received writing grants from the National Arts Council, Centre for the Book, and ECPACC (Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council). She is not purely devoted to poetry but to pursuing writing fulltime. She has written two volumes of poetry, and her latest book is titled Winter in Johannesburg. Storytelling for her has always been a phenomenal way of communicating and making a connection with other people. All About My Mother (a collection of short stories) was published by Ovi magazine in July 2012.

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.


Subtheme of session 55: “Recovering Humanistic Modes of Thoughts” 

Indirect Participants within the Great Conversation across the ages:  McLuhan, Aristotle, Aquinas, Vico, Heidegger, Descartes, Koestler, Chesterton, Pascal, Montaigne, Poe, Croce, Bacon, Kant, Marx, Machiavelli, Campanella, Pound, Joyce, Jonker, Shakespeare, Cohelo, Sontag, Frank, Freud, Sartre, Rand, Jung, Kafka, Maslow, Theresa, Mandela, Annan, David, Wallace, Sexton, Lowell, Jung, Democritus, Thales, Socrates, Plato, Diogenes, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides, Sophocles, Michelangelo, Debussy, Satie, Nietzsche


Table of Contents for the 55st Session of the Ovi Symposium (2 July 2015)

Preamble by the Symposium’s coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 1: “The Poetical as the Mind in Action” A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 2: “Ethics and Politics” A Presentation by Ernesto Paolozzi

Section 3: A comment by Paparella on Paolozzi’s interpretation of Machiavelli’s Political Philosophy

Section 4: “Confession as a way of Recovering Humanistic Modes of Thinking” A Presentation by Abigail George

Section 5: “Recovering our Humanity“  A Presentation by Nikos Laios


Preamble by the Symposium’s Coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella


In this particular 55th meeting of the Ovi Symposium we have decided to return to origins, so to speak, that is to say, to the original purpose (the telos, as the Greeks expressed it, or the terminus ad quem, as the Romans put it) of our symposium as can be noticed on the format of the heading of all the 55 bi-monthly meetings that have taken place in the last two years or so, namely “…the envisioning of a new humanism.” This is an all encompassing theme which we have already explored rather extensively both in a philosophical and literary mode. We are hoping, this time around, that it will encourage a spirited dialogue, and not only among the symposium’s participants but also among our readers around the world. That’s what the comment section is for, after all: to enlarge the symposium’s space by including the readers in its discussions. It would be greatly misguided to conceive of it as a venue for a mutual admiration society, or worse, a venue by which to confront and disparage those who hold different viewpoints.

A symposium is, simply put, an ongoing friendly great conversation in the present but also across the ages. Keeping that caveat well in mind, we’d be especially interested in relevant comments from those of a positivistic scientific frame of mind, or those who do not live within societies that value and appreciate the humanities. Alas, nowadays that may even include a good portion of Western Civilization where the humanities were originally born and nurtured, never mind the rest of the globe. And that’s why we feel that the announced theme represents a pressing issue for the times we live in; times when existential threats loom on the horizon. We are indeed at the crossroads, and need to urgently choose the path on which we wish to continue our journey. A mistake could be fatal for our very humanity and consequently for our whole civilization.

More specifically, the problematic we wish to continue exploring is that of the decline of the humanities and liberal arts vis a vis the sciences. Some have blamed the decline to capitalism with its obsession with consumerism and careerism. Capitalism has been blamed for the spurning of literature, philosophy, history for fields that trains students more directly for a well-paying job. Higher education seems to have become hire education. But that is an inadequate explanation which does not explain the dire situation in the larger intellectual world. There are, in fact, non-lucrative fields what nevertheless remain prestigious and intellectually vibrant. Nevertheless, during the last 150 years the humanities have been eclipsed, even delegitimized, by the phenomenal success of their intellectual rivals: the hard sciences which have built up an impressive edifice of knowledge characterized by precision, systematic verification, practically useful, generating ever newer technologies for the general improvement of human life. Scientific knowledge is now deemed to be “real” knowledge, and all the rest is deemed folklore. Can this extraordinary rise of the sciences explain the fate of the humanities? In section one we attempt to explore those issues.

In section two’s follow-up, Paolozzi offers a short but brilliant excursus on the nexus of ethics and politics and describes for us how Benedetto Croce, a genuine humanist, attempts to build a bridge between science and art through the vision of his philosophy of aesthetics. It’s a complex operation which Paolozzi is well-endowed to elucidate. He reminds us that there is no doubt that empirical science is highly competent in the realm of measurable facts. But then he asks: what about the realm of values? What about the wisdom of life and the knowledge of the self, which can be obtained not from scientific data, but from reflective accounts of the inner experience of being alive as a human being, what Croce calls vitality?

Section three presents the reader with a dialogue between Paparella and Paolozzi, wherein Paparella comments on the interpretation of Machiavelli’s political science vis a vis Christianity; a thorny issue which even today continues to raise debates in and out of academia.  

In section four Abigail George endeavors to exemplify how a subjective confessional mode of writing can be helpful in recovering humanistic modes of thought. Some will object that a subjective individual approach is inadequate for salvaging the best of the humanities and liberal arts. On the other hand, if one is not able to salvage what is most human in oneself, what hope is there that one can salvage it in society at large? Levinas’ philosophy of ethics comes to mind here. Moreover, when Socrates said “the unexamined life is not worth living” surely he had in mind first and foremost his own individual life. He gifted us with a magnificent example of philosophy conceived as a preparation for death; of the courage to live and to die for what one believes with every fiber of one’s being.

Last but not least, Nikos Laios gives us a wonderfully poetic panorama of the birth and development of the Humanities in Western Civilization and makes a convincing case that their loss is the equivalent of the loss of our own humanity and ultimately the loss of Western Civilization as we know it. He ends with a powerfully suggestive rendition of Nietzsche’s madman announcing not only the death but the murder of God and contemplating the consequences of such an act. Poetical and apocalyptic at the same time!

But after reading those four presentations the question persists: Can science teach us how to be most fully, intensely, and authentically alive? Paradoxically, while the sciences seem to eclipse the humanities, they also reveal how necessary they are today, given the perceived loss of values and ethical responsibility in modern Western societies dedicated to an all consuming consumerism and its consequent disrespect for nature. There is indeed an intuited need for self-knowledge and moral clarity, not in the mode of a hippy commune advocating an irresponsible “free for all” life-style, but the way a Socrates conceived “the good life.” Indeed, science while often neglectful of its ethical implications has vastly expanded our power for good and for evil. The Holocaust would not have been possible two hundred years ago, before the industrial revolution and the assertive predominance of technology within modernity.

And this is the puzzle: that despite their necessity for our present ethical situation, the humanities continue on a relentless and unfortunate downward spiral. Mc Luhan who is mentioned in the first presentation offers the spiral or the vortex as a powerfully suggestive metaphor in this regard. Indeed, this is the puzzle that we wish to explore in this issue of the symposium. Why do the younger generations no longer show much enthusiasm for the world of art and ideas: the world of Homer, Aristotle, Locke, Dante, Shakespeare, just to mention a few? Why are those classic authors and works (the so called Great Books) found uninteresting and even disappointing? Why is there a general apathy for books and ideas? Why do the young remain unimpressed by the fact that Lincoln was greatly influenced by Shakespeare? Why does the same Shakespeare no longer speak to us nowadays? What is the cause for this alienation or disconnect within the world of the classics, the humanities and the liberal arts? How do we get out of the vortex? We continue to hope that some light will be shed by our symposium on those urgent existential issues. For that to happen, however, we need to really listen carefully to each other and not just narcissistically present our own pet views on an issue; we need to start an ongoing dialogue rooted in the conversation across millennia which we call the Humanities.



The Poetical as the Mind in Action
A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella


“Nous regardons le présent dans un miroir rétroviseur. Et nous allons en
march arrier vers le future”
                                                                     - Marshall McLuhan


I must have written at least a dozen articles in Ovi magazine on the importance and the relevancy of the Humanities and the Liberal Arts for the survival of a civilization intent on suicide. Just to mention two, almost at random: “Revisiting C.P. Snow’s Two Cultures” at  http://www.ovimagazine.com/art/9533 and “Musings on Liberal Arts Education within Modernity” at http://www.ovimagazine.com/art/7244 . So there is no need here to rehash what’s already been previously written. What I wish to list here are the reasons why the humanities and the Liberal Arts remain as crucially important for the survival of civilization and indeed of the whole of humankind. Also, how misguided is the positivistic approach to the apprehension of reality, alive and well since the 19th century.

I would forcefully argue that the 21st century needs high quality humanities research and teaching more than ever. The need has to do with the undergraduate education of tens of thousands of young students each year. It also has to do with how the kinds of knowledge born of the humanities can contribute to clearer, more historically informed, and more ethical understandings of problems that face modern society.

Those of a positivistic mind-set continue to maintain that the sciences have far more to offer than have disciplines such as ancient languages, history, literary studies, art history, political science, or philosophy, especially to a world facing global warming, shortages of food and water, and unequal access to resources and opportunities. To the contrary, I would argue that the humanities foster understanding across lines of national, ethnic, racial, and gender difference, which is an urgent requirement in an increasingly global world. To take one central example, critical humanities work has been foundational for the advances made by women over at least the past sixty years. The humanities make it possible to address—critically and historically—first-order questions about value, justice, ethical practice, and the principles of human dignity that must guide policy decisions and technological development and implementation.

In more immediate terms, there are those who would argue that Economics, Management, and Engineering are the kinds of majors that ensure students their first job and a jumpstart on a successful career. I would argue that the careers of the future call for people who can think both deeply and flexibly, write persuasively, and question productively.   Employers want universities to teach students the so-called “soft skills”—abilities to communicate, collaborate, problem-solve, and so on. A recent US survey found that employers rated communication and problem-solving skills ahead of a range of kinds of technical training.

In general, the disciplines of the humanities differ from the scientific disciplines because they share a focus on what people do and have done with the world and with each other and how they make and have made the world meaningful. The “why” has a priority over the “how.” One deals with the meaning of life of with the Socratic injunction that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” the other deals with the solution of practical problems independent of the meaning of it all. The former puts emphasis on creativity and imagination, the latter puts the emphasis on knowing how things function and more often than not on mere bottom line profits, unconcerned with ethical issues of value and the environment.

The humanities differ from the Social Sciences in large measure because they do not focus on human actions and creations as if they could be analyzed or calculated with complete objectivity—seen from the outside as if we could stand quite apart from the actions and creations we study. For the Humanities knowledge is fundamentally dialogical. The human being can be understood but not explained like a mechanical machine.

Humanities scholarship is well described as reading. Humanities researchers pay attention to objects of study in fine-grained detail. They think of objects of study as able to be drawn together, at least in principle, into an overall pattern or a coherent story. They develop accounts of cultural and political life that are mindful of history and are themselves oriented toward futurity—aware, that is, that knowledge is not definitive but is something always being made and therefore always open to critique. They treat what they study as able to speak back to them and therefore as a conversation partner rather than as mere object or raw data. Also, because humanities research is dialogical through and through, earlier studies are not, in principle, to be discarded; rather, earlier work remains active within what develops into widening dialogical work toward a deepened understanding of culture, society, and the political world. Further, we contend that the humanities sustain people across their lifetimes, regenerating their willingness to ask questions, critique answers, pursue the pleasures and insights of a text, an image, or the sounds of a sonata; the humanities nurture the senses and the intellectual flexibility to imagine alternative futures. This is not to claim the superiority of the humanities over the sciences or the Social Sciences. What is being argued here is rather that all are necessary for the advancement and flourishing of people in the 21st century. To summarize the value of the often unappreciated value of the humanities is five- fold:

1. The humanities cultivate the capacity to think and imagine across national, religious, linguistic, ethic, racial, gender, sexual, and cultural differences;

2. The humanities enable a complex understanding of the present based on a knowledge of the past and a future-oriented awareness that knowledge is never something already made but rather something always in the making, earned by hard work, our own and the efforts of others;

3. The humanities foster dialogical capacities to analyze and understand the products and actions of the human world (as opposed to the natural world)—ideas, the social and political life of discursive practices, works of art and literature, political movements, and historical events;

4. The humanities develop a critical, historical, and case-based understanding of value that helps us determine why we should undertake certain courses of action in preference to others and why we should keep assaying the consequences of past events, formations, policies, and imaginings;

5. The humanities create new worlds of ideas, art, and practice that are beautiful, pleasurable, and rewarding in themselves—able to nourish individuals and communities over time and also productive of alternative frames through which to understand the present and imagine different futures.

In addition to these core attributes, the humanities are valuable for modern society because they emphasize high-level research, interpretive, and communication skills. They teach reading of all kinds—deep reading of single texts and digitally enabled reading of hundreds of thousands of texts, reading on stone, paper, and screen, and reading of fragment, image, and map. They demand careful reasoning and the analytical ability to account for the whole and the part. They foster the powers of imagination. They nurture the capacity to write and speak persuasively and informatively to different readerships and audiences. These are high-order skills that foster intellectual agility and effectiveness. At their best, they are skills that enable people to interpret the lessons of the past for the benefit of present and future generations, to understand other languages and cultures, to create new knowledge not only in fields of specialization but also across disciplines, to deal insightfully with questions in different fields of work, and to teach others high-order research, analytical, creative, and argumentative skills.

I submit that If all those intellectual gifts of the humanities are seriously considered, then there will be no need to debunk their intrinsic value vis a vis the sciences. Nobody denies that there are flagrant abuses to be corrected in academia, not excluding Ph.D. programs, but as Thomas Aquinas well taught us “the abuse does not take away the use.” I would suggest that the humanities are like the canary in the mine: when they die, so will our humanity.


In order to recover lost humanistic modes of thought in a rationalistic era, it may be greatly useful to revisit Marshall McLuhan, even if it is now some thirty five years after his death. He is still a valid reminder and a timely warning to post-modern futuristic man that, paradoxically, humankind proceeds historically back to the future and that, to use McLuhan’s metaphors, it is dangerous to operate an automobile without a rear-view mirror or to navigate a ship without charts and a compass.


Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980)

In the metaphor of the rear-view mirror within the above quote 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.

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.

As his studies on Joyce (an author also greatly inspired by Vico) clearly suggest, for McLuhan 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), McLuhan 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.”  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 the 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 (McLuhan 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 senses) 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 McLuhan’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. 

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 and Croce, McLuhan 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.


Image of a whirlpool

But there is another important metaphor for McLuhan: 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 McLuhan, 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.

Let us conclude with a brief reflection on this powerful metaphor of the whirlpool. Let us imagine it as representing a deterministic, horizontal, immanent future, devoid of any transcendence, the end of history so to speak, swallowing the past and the present. Let us further imagine Western Civilization as a wonderfully comfortable transatlantic ship full of technological gadgets and wonders unknowingly approaching the whirlpool in the middle of the night without a guiding compass or chart. Will it save itself by simply understanding the action of the whirlpool? Can that understanding be achieved via positivistic, rationalistic or real-politick paradigms devoid of the poetical? Is rationalism sufficient light unto itself to discern the danger of the whirlpool ahead? These are crucial questions and the way we answer them may determine our fate as a civilization.

The metaphor ought to liberate the reader's imagination and suggest many more existentially vital questions. For the preservation of our Western civilization may ultimately be determined not by the glib answers but by the quality of the imaginative questions we are capable of asking ourselves. They are like the indispensable rear-view mirror and sea charts needed for a long and dangerous voyage.



Is there Ethics in Political Life?
A Presentation by Ernesto Paolozzi
(An essay published in 2011 and translated by Emanuel L. Paparella)


The relationship between ethics and politics has always been, from antiquity, a thorny one; one of both contrasts and convergence; almost as if politics by its own nature should be immoral. Quite often the behavior of politicians seems to support such an assumption, even if at times political men of different beliefs have raised themselves to the heroic levels, to become inspiring historical figures who have sacrificed their life for the common good of the Polis.

How is this possible? The fact of the matter is that the nexus politics-ethics is much more complex than what we assume; to the point that often in history, in the name of ethics, of the ideals of justice and even those of liberty nefarious deeds have been committed, in an attempt to construct perfect societies, to respect the will of the majority, and in the name of those abstract ideals real men and women have been sacrificed.


Tommaso Campanella (1568-1639) who wrote the Utopian The City of the Sun

It is customary to contrast political realism (which privileges power and politics in the strict sense) utopic thought (which privileges the ideal and ethical in itself). Already in the ancient Greek world we notice the contrast between the realism of Thucydides and the idealism of Plato. Closer to our times we have Machiavelli’s or Campanella’s thought contrasted to the School of Frankfurt and the debate between neo-Marxists and neo-Liberals. And so, to the realists we attribute the cynicism or pragmatic common sense, and to the utopists that of fanaticism or perhaps honesty.

There is little doubt that notable divergences exist between those two schools of thought, between those different sensibilities that direct concrete political action. It is also undeniable that such a contrast often enough does not find a theoretical foundation as exemplified in all the great philosophers, from Plato to Aristotle to Marx and Croce in whose thought it is possible to discover mediating elements between morality and politics.


Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) who wrote The Critique of Practical Reason

On the other hand, it would be enough to go back to the evangelical dictum “pure like doves and prudent like serpents” to become aware that ethics and politics are not necessarily in contrast with each other; rather one needs the other, and vice versa. This is a fountainhead which is not easily instrumentalizable. In Marx’s thought one clearly detects the presence of both political realism and a clear utopism, just as we find it in Benedetto Croce who coined the term “etico-political” to indicate the proper sense of the  development of Man’s history. This is a rather abstract term which is no longer used in political life but it remains difficult to coin a substitution. Therefore we need to learn that the distinction between politics and ethics, between political realism and utopian thought is a distinction but not a dichotomy. Paraphrasing Kant we could say that politics without ethics is blind and ethics without politics is sterile.

In our daily conduct we need to be guided from the Utopic horizon, which is in reality the horizon of the ideal, but never losing sight of practical realistic historical conditions, so that the ideal is not relegated to pure hope, and concrete politics remains devoid of a strong and secure moral guide. Niccolò Machiavelli is the historical symbol of the unification of the political and the ethical. He is the philosopher that theorized the autonomy of politics as an indispensable instrument for the realization of the ethical ideal. For too long his thought has not been understood and unfairly opposed. His relevancy is, so to speak, perennial.


(Excerpt from Ernesto Paolozzi’s latest book Liberalism as Method (2015); ch. 5: Liberalism and Vitality: Croce’s Answer).

With the non-peaceful use of nuclear energy humanity has elevated as a collective the individual sentiment of auto-destruction. This sense of angst which always accompanies individual life, face to face with the inevitable destination which is death, has now spread to humanity as a whole, it expands among men who are now aware that civilization, the human species, may extinguish itself and simply disappear.

But if truth be said, man has always lived, desperately, sadly of imaginatively this experience of the possibility of the disappearance of humanity. In attributing to God’s will or the blind responsibility of a natural event, theologians, philosophers, scientists and even ordinary people can no longer deny the arrival, logically conceivable, of the dissolution of a world so perfectly organized and placed at the very psychological center o fan indefinable and inconceivable infinite universe. Religion has prophesized the end of the world, in tandem with the equally certain palygenesis of the judgment and the forgiveness of God.

Science fiction has superficially fascinated us, placing before us providential flights from a world on fire toward new horizons in whose presence this new Robinson Crusoe of the universe carries the melancholy of a great forever lost story and the happy condition of one who is absolute makes of its own adventurous future, the almost divine carrier of the destiny of an entire race, the most intelligent that we know of: humankind.

However, the dramatic discovery of our times remains the fact of the possibility which we have by a conscious act of our will, of exterminating ourselves. It is no longer God, in his immense potential to operate for the a good unknown to us, or the blind will of Nature, that decides our destiny, but we ourselves who have truly and inescapably become the masters of our destiny. Liberty, the greatest value at our disposal, offers us for the first time a terrible option, a tragic choice.

The great philosophies of the18th and 19th century, enlightened, idealistic, Marxist, historicist, have been mortally wounded in as much as general conception of life, the idea of progress which Croce’s answer appeals to, is put in doubt. There is a return of philosophies of crisis or even ideologies of hedonism as a life-style.

In this modern era the world is thorn in two between the end of a tragic war and the triumph of the liberal and democratic forces with the horrible remembrance of the historical experience of the most monstrous dictatorships that have afflicted the Western world.  It is in this environment that Croce’s mature thought comes to fruition. In the 50s he writes those controversial pages on vitality which have provoked much debate. It is Croce’s answer, open and problematic, to the very same questions that the world and his same followers were asking: how do we reconstruct a value system when in only five years humankind experienced the folly of Nazism, Communism atrocities, the tragedy of the atomic bomb?

Even the liberal democracies, holding on to the affirmation that evil contaminates the good, to give a proper answer to their enemies had resorted to the most indiscriminate kind of violence. One could already detect the germs of a society which was evolving under the sign of the most vulgar economic materialism which, even if it provided a modicum of material welfare, would carry with it injustices, cynicism, racial confrontations and moral decadence which no social compact was capable of resolving.


The Philosopher of Aesthetics Benedetto Croce

Croce, the liberal philosopher, who had gone through in his youth the Marxist and Hegelian experience, Vichian and Machiavellian studies, naturally returned to the great themes of the nexus between morality and utility, to dialectic, to the meaning of history and of life itself. The issue is placed on the table with all its dramatic quality with no equivocations, even if Croce had no intention of debating the theoretical foundations of his thought.

Croce writes that “The category of Vitality implies that the individual within it satisfies his wishes and destre for individual well-being. As such it is naturally amoral; that should not be surprising and an object of scandal given that the categories which constitute the reality of life are not all directly qualified by morality which is merely one of them. After all, even art and poetry have been considered amoral, even immoral, for which (without resorting to the example of Plato who wished to interpret in one of his paradoxes the category of poetry), it would be enough to remember the difference of ascetics and religious spirits, which manifest themselves against the profanity of art, charging it with the cultivation of voluptuousness and sensuality. Not even philosophy or science can push back completely a similar suspect of amorality, since they, not unlike art vis a vis beauty, claim truth as their goal, to remain indifferent to any other of their characteristics.

Nor should we be distracted and attracted toward Vitality, already tamed and regulated by morality, and thus lose sight of what counts and has interest for us, that is to say, raw green vitality, savage and uncontaminated by any ulterior education. It offers the subject matter of the categories so that what was once form becomes subject matter, and not only that, it also helps the next forms the power that used to be hers. In effect, as already noted, they would have no voice and no deeds, impotent to express themselves unless vital form came to their aid giving their truth, their dreams of beauty, their sublime and heroic actions pleasure and pain, the common manifestation of every life.”

Only a few years before, when Europe had already been afflicted by the great tragedy of World War I, the first war that appeared absurd and irrational, a real unleashing of barbaric forces, as Croce had correctly perceived, he found the moral political strength to react to dictatorships, to diametrically different totalitarianisms, fascist and communist, thereby reconfirming the eternal value of liberty because it dovetails progress and ethics.

In pages which are the most meaningful and beautiful, even on a literary plane, of the whole history of liberalism, which revealed the irrationalism which propped up totalitarianisms and nationalisms, he prophesized, or better he predicted (since what he wrote has in fact happened or is in the process of happening), the rebirth of liberalism under the sign of what today we’d call the Western spirit, Europeanism, while also predicting the dissolution of Communism from its midst.   

On the theoretical level, he put forward a new conception of liberalism, the meta-political theory of liberty,  which represented the only new theory within the history of liberalism from the 18th century till today. In general Croce’s reflections are places within the general philosophical system of Croce which allegedly assumed a new formulation, distancing itself from forms of Hegelian idealism, conferring a new role to the irrational, the vitalistic, to the point that there was talk of Croce’s affinity to existentialism and even Marxism. But in my opinion, there is no doubt that the validity of the ethico-political interpretation of the times, remains the fundamental aspect of a new Crocean vision.  




Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)

A Brief Comment by Paparella on Paolozzi’s interpretation of Machiavelli’s Political Philosophy

Thank you Ernesto for guiding us, via an enlightening Crocean excursus, in the complex exploration of the  nexus ethics/politics. You correctly mention that sometime Machiavelli’s thought has been misunderstood, that in reality he wished to emphasize politics in order to reveal that it is inconceivable without a consideration of ethics, and that ethics as mere theory is sterile, which of course was also mentioned by the likes of Aristotle who saw theory and practice as complementary to each other; for him theory and practice go in tandem or they become useless.

Nevertheless, I would contend, that the misunderstanding of Machiavelli is grounded in what seems to be a conflict with another time-honored Christian principle which declares that a good goal or purpose does not justify bad means; that is to say the means can ethically be good or they can be bad but a judgment either way can and should be made on them independent of the good goals or results; the freedom to choose, as Kant has taught us, is integral part of ethics together with a good will and a universal application of the categorical moral imperative; results by themselves do not exhaust the judgment of an ethical action; that may be the case of a utilitarian or positivistic ethical judgment, but it is not the case of a Christian or Kantian deontological judgment.

Now, Machiavelli may not have explicitly used the adjective bad or good in relation to means, but at a minimum he did imply that the end justifies the means and that those means cannot be too abstract or theoretical, they must be grounded in practical political action. Now, as long as the means are good, there is no ethical problem here. The misunderstanding takes place when bad means are utilized and then justified by invoking a good end or at least the intention of a good end. I think one can safely say that history (especially modern history) shows us that quite often bad means will end up corrupting even a good goal. In the name of Utopias of all kinds some pretty bad means have been utilized for the achievement of that goal, with nefarious results. Torture and human experimentation of the worst kind has thus been justified. Just about all the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century rationalized their existence and conduct by what they considered good goals. Machiavelli may not have advocated the adoption of bad means to achieve a good purpose but there is little doubt that he has been so interpreted.

Perhaps the interpretation, or better, the misinterpretation, is the real crux of the matter in this conundrum of means in relations to goals. Also important to consider the reality that for the vast majority of scholars the Renaissance is not a mere slavish imitation of antiquity but rather a synthesis, imperfect to be sure but a synthesis nevertheless, of antiquity and Christianity. I am well aware that this question constitutes a complex ethical issue, about which rivers of ink have been expended, that those comments of mine are inadequate, perhaps to be further discussed in the subsequent issues of our symposium, nevertheless, if I may impose on your kindness, I’d be grateful for your expert response on this thorny subject.



Confession as a Way of Recovering Humanistic Modes of Thought
A Presentation by Abigail George



Police survey the bodies of striking miners shot to death on August 16, 2012 in Lonmin South Africa

The early death of Lonmin.

The psychology behind positivity and human potential from an African perspective. Their souls are silent now. Shot execution style. Flowers do not grow on abnormality. At first, I saw them everywhere. They had different names besides ‘miners’. Some were vagrants. People who did odd jobs. Some were homeless. Some sold newspapers. Some begged for food. Some sold toys at the traffic light or pretty much anything in order to make a living. Some were garden boys. Yes, in South Africa, we still call grown men ‘garden boys’. I presumed as I had been brought up to believe that they were the masters of their own destiny.

The day that Lonmin went down in history, the miners were not quite the masters of their own destiny. We will never forget the future abandoned. This is what Africa does with revolutionary acts. The miners were people. People who only wanted to be understood but it was deceit that controlled the present. Then the game was up. Then the agenda came. The temptation to distort truth was there alongside the glamour of the international press.

Alongside frenzy, there was propaganda too. I am inclined to think and feel very strongly about this, as I am sure all people of colour did. It does not matter what race, what faith, what gender. They changed the world. The miners. They fought for what they believed in. They were bold, brave and brilliant. They dreamed with a kind of certainty about what they wanted not for themselves but for their children.

This is why the miners went to ‘war’.  What are the breathing lessons that we learn from war? We inhale death. We exhale inhumanity. War is a nasty business. We did not learn much from Lonmin. Our police followed in the footsteps of the Special Branch that day of the wuthering heights of apartheid. They turned to the literature of the police of apartheid. I can only paint and write about what I see in the post-apartheid world we live in today in South Africa.

We live in a land of extremes. Extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Wherever we look there is wrongdoing and corruption at all levels in the spheres of government. We live and believe in the hierarchy of politics because is it not our votes that placed this government into power. In the eyes of the people in power, we do not exist. They make their own rules. In the end, we are the losers.

We want with an irresistible urge things to change. We cannot wait for transformation to take place but how quickly we forget. The zoo parade of the way of life during apartheid when detention, assassination, murder, and imprisonment was the order of the day but we want to believe that there is now a harmony that exists amongst humanity in South Africa, not monsters. Death is death and it is not pretty in South Africa.

If you have a long memory, you will remember those ghosts. If you are a child, you will remain an innocent. You will visit apartheid in a museum. Perhaps I should not write like this but I look at the world I live like a child. All adults do who have experienced trauma in childhood. It comes with the history of violence, ghost stories, the major earth, men and women being born with a different texture of hair, the kinkiness of my curls, open parachutes descending like dreams.

It comes with having been born learning to welcome the inevitable, the honourable, and conditioned to the universal loneliness of the working classes around us. It comes with being born with a different mother tongue, ordinariness, drink it in, bathe in it, swim in its muddy waters, and stand mesmerised on any shore by its contrariness. The journalists and photographers wearing their Mona Lisa smiles in this volatile region.

This colossus comes with being consumed by the habit of looking, living with, surviving danger by habitat and by life. As I write this, I am shattered. In the process of the days that followed, the miners became warriors. Their wives sang the blues. They danced to the tune of pain. They waltzed to suffering. The sorrows of many spoke to our hearts again. In the weeks that followed the Lonmin case was on television.

Fodder. It was a terrifying sacrifice when the volcano people began to speak. I looked at the television screen. On the one hand, it meant nothing to me. On the other, it meant everything. Were they not my estranged brothers and sisters? For example, for years to come if you are a writer, artist, and poet. If you are an African. You are an African if you live in Africa. To the dead I have this to say who were catapulted into another realm from spiritual poverty and victory to another schizophrenic dimension.

The big strings of its orchestration. It comes when a family homes in and start to cry a river and the whole world starts laughing at the macabre of life. It comes with having been raised with a mother, yet another woman, another muse, another goddess. It comes with having been subjected to being called monkeys. These same monkeys riding on your back. A self-portrait. It comes with the flushed curve of your palm, myth, legend, and symbol. Epic.

It comes with the pure rhythm of my feet, the snake in my hips. It comes with phenomenally homing in on ancient yet lovely bones in the morgue. Grown up beautifully with peaceful resolutions in the home. Even something like this, like death, a succession of deaths can feed, nurture your imagination. Your children have to live as you did once. Listening. Oh the tears, the words, the organic observations, the songs exploding into stardom.

It comes with watching shadows disappear standing at the water’s edge. It comes with moody blues. Standing on the ground looking up at the sky. Words of a poet, a writer, a documentary filmmaker in slow motion compelling, unique, relevant, fluid, pure while you guess at the intensity behind my words. I am history breathing. Funny how a brush with poverty, with innocence, with flawed human beings, characters everyone on the world’s stage putting everything into perspective.

It comes with planting yourself comaed near kindling or a reservoir like a butterfly. It comes with wisdom, grief. At certain intervals I felt ravished and then sated. It keeps us alive. That what hurts the most. It comes with my version of a lament and an ode. It comes with the intense imagery that inspires men, children and women. Citizens of the world not just a continent. In order for us to become visionaries, our thinking literally has to evolve from a series of compromises.

It has to come with the arrival of education, the origins of what was lost in translation. It comes with a feast of novel blueprints on the ego, the intellect, psyche and the brain. Your victory was not a hollow one. Your memory, your struggle, your life, there was glory and depth in all that you did, all that you fought for and it was a gift. I was not prepared for mourning. I do not think that anybody really was.


Session with the psychologist

I plunge into the sudden glare of fury, hysteria and trepidation. There is a primal scream inside each of my hypomanic brain cells.

The afternoon of the mind drifts into view. The adult me, and I fly out into silence and my mother’s perfume. She is hip and elegant like the handsome tigers at the zoo. She is smart. Way too smart to love me with her golden attempts of cooking for three. She could have left long ago, instead, she stayed. I call that mother love. I say to my reflection. I am a collection of language, of translations, of ‘the incident’, the attempted suicide and a collection of relapses and recoveries in hospitals all over South Africa. Tara, Garden City Clinic, Hunterscraig, and Helen Joseph. Only the best for a rest.

Trauma. I have a different kind of trauma than anybody else in this world. I have a different kind of oxygen than anybody else in this world. I was a late bloomer. A latecomer separated from girls my own age but nobody knew what to call it then. Certainly not ‘mental illness’. I have a perverse lust for life. I am stuck alone in a cave and I am at a loss for words. What to do with myself? What does it feel like to be a wife, to have a spouse, to live in a large, spacious house, have that sedan parked in the garage? What does it feel like to curl up in a bedroom at night in the foetal position or with a book feeling safe with another warm, living, breathing body sleeping next to you?

Someone who will feed the dogs, take the rubbish out. Someone who will call you a ‘brilliant chef’, someone who will call you ‘mummy’, someone who will call you ‘lover’ a million times in a married lifetime.

There is someone, people, a son, an heir to the throne who loves the way my mother plates vegetables. Plates her broccoli. They do not find her spiritual meetings ridiculous. They might argue as if people argued about the earth being flat not round, stupid or not within her earshot. My mother has become brave enough to namedrop her spiritual guides. Cynthia is prominent. She comes through often. Helps my mum decide whether its soup or chicken for supper. 

Once upon a time, a man took a wife.  He wed her in a church. They had the wedding reception in the church hall. Between the church and the reception, the husband in question lost one of his white gloves. They took the wedding photographs in a park. You could feel the affection that they had for each other just from looking at their faces. At their beautiful, sickening and awesome youth. You felt you did not belong there. You felt you did not belong in that year. Besides, I had not even born yet.

The idea of me had been conceived perhaps in my mother’s brain. I looked and looked and looked to see something of myself in that wife in the picture, the newlywed with her freshly washed and rinsed, perfumed hair. Women need love like air but men are altogether another kettle of fish. Fish and kettles. What do one have to do with the other? Go figure these English idioms. Men become very enthusiastic about sophisticated women. Women who are elegant. Woman who will smoke, and drink with them.

Women who will laugh at their unfunny jokes, and then take walks with them in the dark park or sit with them in the backseat of a car. Men are stupid like that. They prefer vanity above sanity. They like it when women touch their hair (as if there is a hair out of place) or ask for a cigarette. The way she holds it as he lights it up for her. The way she breathes in the smoke as if it is slick particular. I know that my brother has gone out with girls like this. He does not go for girls like me.

Quiet, bookish, much too serious for my age, emotionally mature, chubby, nervous in crowds, anxious around dark-haired good-looking boys who wore blazers. He does not go for a girl who sweats and who does not curse. His kind of girl perspires. His kind of girl says the other words for crap and sex. I am the kind of girl older men refer to as ‘dear’ and women, aunties call ‘okay love’ or ‘are you okay’ or ‘luvvy’ at the end of their sentences. As if, I am meant to be talented but also a stranger in a strange world.

A self-imposed exile in an asylum. I could not see anything of me in my mum. She was a wife at twenty-five. She had it made or had made it. She had found love whereas I was looking at a lifetime of binge eating, of takeaways, of dreaming, of hope in the centre of winter, of a relapse in a mental hospital, of pain, of chocolate, of tuna fish sandwiches with lopsided flowers of wilted lettuce. She had found love, made love this heavenly creature, this fierce creature, this intelligent creature.

She had done the impossible. She had found love in the time of tuberculosis. My father was educated and that made him posh but he did not come from money. My mother came from money. Her father was a police officer and that meant that she came from money. Her family had paid for the entire wedding. My father was mentally ill. He was not as mentally ill as all that. As all that his siblings made him out to be.

He only suffered from spells of darkness visible. Spells of depression. His family were responsible for that. I blame them. His mother worked as a housekeeper and took in washing. His father drank. Worked at a country club. His brothers drank. Estranged from them all in the end they all had dysfunctional families. Childhood memories, like sunken treasure can survive. I do not know what crazy is. What is its purpose? I know I am infinitely crazier than my father ever was but that has more to do with the genes of a woman who has a hypomanic brain. I want joy. I really do but do I want it more than love because at the end of the day, when you cannot read by the afternoon light anymore joy and love remains out of reach, distant.

Asylum. That was what they called in the old days. They would just lock you up and you would bang/bash your head against the walls until (wait for it) nothing. Unreality I suppose. I am misunderstood but the thing is I have worked very hard to be misunderstood. The depression blotted out the broken crockery. The mania made me love men and see them through binoculars. The hypomania made me ‘see’ things that really were not there. I heard voices. I really did. I thought it was all my emotional baggage coming back to me. Winter makes a pure sound. Confessions never lead to answers. Funny, so does hellish depression. I have earned those white stripes.



Ingrid Jonker’s black butterflies. Let us tell ghost stories.

She is a ghost of her former self, but she is still in the land of the living — a tragic beauty in a state of personal turmoil and crisis. "There is no time like the future to seal my fate," she thinks to herself, with growing uncertainty. She is unbearably nervous tonight. She fidgets. Her fingers twitch. The clock on the wall opposite her distracts her and she smokes cigarette after cigarette and then dashes them in an ashtray. She feels exposed, she paces up and down, but she still attaches no serious damage or blame to her last love affair. She was gentle and loving with her small daughter, Simone today. Simone is a beautiful child. Sweet and well behaved.

In Paris, she was already a writer in exile. Cursed, perturbed and a voyeur who had high-maintenance tastes. She is still unclear about what she is going to do about her lover. Her resolve unraveled that night in the flat. Her beauty meant nothing to her. She was not conceited. What had her attractive looks brought her but ill-fated relationships, rejection, pain and suffering? Nothing dulled or sated her desire for love, for life, for a hot and heavy intellectual debate, which her voice was the center of. In retrospect, living in Apartheid, participating in conversations with other colored and black writers, poets and intellectuals at secret literary meetings had made her begin to doubt what she was living for.

She wanted to be taken seriously as a woman, but more importantly, as a writer. They were dangerously in hate with a patriarchal system. The essence of the identity being passed to her was a fate worse than death and could not guarantee security in her chosen field or career.

Love will change you in an indescribable way. It will make the strong weak, strong hearts weak, render the intellectual speechless, comedians will vanish and be replaced by philosophers; the funny will be replaced by philosophy and everything that was laughable before is serious and stimulating. The challenges of the human condition become painfully obvious. Death is the ultimate sacrifice, invisible and mysterious.

Ingrid Jonker made a decision for herself that was useless. There is no earthly justification for what she did. Removing the very substance of her gift, her genius from this world, by taking her own life, by drowning herself in the sea. As they pulled the limp body from the ocean, the subject in death mirrored life. There was a chill in her embrace. Her fingers were numb. She was haunting, pale and beautiful, lacking tenderness. Her cheeks were wet as if from tears. Her mouth is full. Her lips are cool, as if she has drunk her fill. Her appetite is sated. She sleeps to dream, she does not speak and there is no lapsed recovery from the multiple meanings of words. There will no longer be the willing prerogative of an insomniac to stay up the whole night and blot out the stain of her sins by writing.

The male police officers’ hair was windswept. They talked amongst themselves. The breeze was salty, the morning tide came in, the breakers crashed against the rocks, the foam raced towards the shore, birds circling overhead perched on rocks and altered states were trapped in a war of nerves.

Her eyes stared into the pale, blue sky. The beginning of the day was like her work, imaginative. It gave recognition to curious incidents in the still, mournful air of the morning. It concerned itself with the decline of evil and the harmful beginnings of the harvest of desolation.

The shadow of a ghost of a haunting memory refused to disappear into a hazy reverie. The poet, Ingrid Jonker, is dead. Her face has an unsmiling seriousness on it. Even in death, she is angelic. Her demeanor never giving way to the trouble or unfounded insecurity that lay underneath.

She is authentic, a true original, a unique. She will never know this in her own lifetime. Her life when held up to scrutiny in death will revere it. She knew what the imagination was capable of, the loneliness of the heart and when it was ready to surrender to a temporary escape into a romance. Her innocence and vulnerability reminds me of women ahead of the times they were born into, women who were visionaries, leaders, and had to endure great humiliation from  powerful men, women from a more traditional public realm. Women like Joan of Arc, Saartjie Baartman, Susan Sontag, Princess Diana, Sylvia Plath and Marilyn Monroe.

She is barefoot in her flat. Her hair is dark, wild and free and falls across her face. Yet in her eyes, there is a declaration of having been to hell and back again. There has been a radical change in her behavior since she came back from Paris that has not escaped her but she does not speak of her experiences there, of the lingering sadness that torments her. The 'unhappiness' does not have a name yet, but soon the world will know and there is nothing she can do to protect her daughter from it.

Fate is like a drowned thing, an empty shell reserved for the sound of silence invoking the sound of the ocean. She has decided she is a poor activist, wife, mother, woman and lover. Simone, her daughter, wants to make her smile but she is tired of playing games.

Nonetheless she plays along, pretends to catch the joke, and today, when the journalist came for the interview, there was a glimmer of a smile on her face when her picture was taken. The picture of her as the famous, prize-winning poet. The female voice of her generation was a small consolation to her. Without her father's love, she felt lost. Fame meant little or nothing to her and the turning point came now, this night. How different would things be in the morning for people that she had been estranged from for years, she wondered quietly to herself?

How many times, I wonder, did she have to redirect her focus when tears blurred her vision when she cried, when she was working? How do you survive a blessed and cursed childhood? What made her laugh, this sensitive, delicate woman? Who made her smile? The elementary particles of light became diffused on her face. It was translucent, her face was dreamy and her lashes were damp. There is a distracting air near the incident now as they wait for the coroner. Simone woke up in the stillness of the flat and went in search of her mother. She searched the rooms one by one and found that they were empty

Where does this story begin? The car is hurtling down the road past everything a young Ingrid knows and loves. This is the world of a child, a babyish language, tea parties in the shade with her sister, barefoot on the sandy beach searching for beautiful feathers, smooth pebbles and colorful shells. Now history has turned the page. Their father has come to fetch them to live with him and his family. Their idyllic childhood is over forever.


Shakespeare’s Cry in autumn. I am a martyr. My blood twitching in my flesh, every bone, platelet and cell. I know my voice now. It is a claw. It will not let go of anything bright and illuminating. Anything that has a glare. I understand the identity, the psychological framework of the depressed now. Let me explain it to you like this. Let me tell you of the bitter truths that I cannot escape from in my life. A man who is envious as other men who are envious of him. I am that man. I hate them just as they hate me. We may drink together but that is where the story ends. I am a latecomer. I must still learn the rules of engagement. I want to tell them that I am a fraud. I want to tell them that I am a phony but then I heard the laughter after A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I felt elated. They were laughing with me all the way. The throat is all that it is. Blue sky is found yonder. Blue sky is found in the throat.

Sometimes I am that blue sky. It swallows me whole. It swallows my mental faculties’ whole. Its melancholia. There is a certain kind of terror that I have of falling, of failure, of never being able to fall in love with the female protagonist in a play again or find a muse. I think it has much to do with the weather this time of year. Perhaps that is why I find it so difficult to write. The roads are muddy. My boots are muddy. All I can feel is despair and hardship. You are my asset. You are my flame. That is what I call my intellect. That is what I call you. A woman goes by many names by her beloved. Oh, I feel so hopeless now that I wish I were back in your arms. Your breath is like a sphere, an atmosphere, a God particle and it completes me. You are my infinite landscape. You are my infinite swell. I have the body of a man but the hands of a poet. Sensitive hands. I have the swagger of a man and the eyes of a hopeless romantic.

Except when people want entertainment then they know who I am. At this very moment, I am contemplating the entire life of thaw, loss with its gut symmetries, the psychological and physiological fissures of the female protagonists in my plays. I have found a name for my hero. I think I will call him Romeo. Romeo, Romeo where art thou Romeo. Everything inspires me. I took a walk today. I watched the current in the river, mud on my boots, my coat hardly keeping me warm (but I had to get out) and lost myself in the pleasure of looking at it. There was something almost lyrical about it. The waves beat to their own drum and I took this portrait with me to my room, sat down at my desk, and began to write in earnest about life, the fire, thinking of you, love. I try not to think about insanity too much because when it comes it comes in waves. Lest it cross the threshold, I will turn into a shroud.

Now we would not want that to happen. I am happy if you are happy dearest. If you are sad then I am sad. I try not to cry too much. One day the millennial couples will call it a long distance relationship. Writers have three identities. One is always in the past, the other the present and the identity that is the most ongoing is the one that is born in the future. That one paralyses you in your waking moments. You can dream about your past. Your subconscious has an ongoing hold over you on that. I am better than sane, love. I am ecstatic. I am elated that you love me and that I love you. I think about every woman who is exploited on the streets of London, another born into aristocracy becomes a socialite and is forever throwing parties for her friends. For every woman who has ice in her lungs, glaciers in her eyes there is another with warmth in her eyes.

For every woman who is unmarried at the age of thirty another is a wife and a mother. Does not every woman want a cottage with a garden? Does she not want to serve fish pie to her husband? Go on trips with her children to the sea. Honeymoon in Brighton. Then there is the woman who is an innocent fool. I do not know how many bright women there are in the world today. I only know that perhaps you are the last remaining one of your kind. Do men really want an educated wife? A woman who is more of an intellectual than he is? I know our friendship matters to you just as much as our love does. Try not to remember the sad things. Know this. That you were pursued. In case I have never said this before I write to educate people. It should be written on my tombstone. William Shakespeare wrote to educate people.

Your hair falls across your face and I brush it away carelessly but with love. Always with love because I am your beloved. When we first met we were strangers but are people who fall in love with each at first sight ever strangers, is there nothing familiar perhaps about the arch of your back, your hands, a young girl’s bones, place, pace, time, judgement because do not the two people in question who have fallen for each other judge each other. Without you, I am in the desert and behind the sounds of silence there, you will find my intellect and my psyche. Love fills me with terror. It blends in with the dark waters in the rivers of London where drowning visitors and cats with their kittens have met their fate. I know I have everything to lose if I lost you to children and death. Staring down at you from an immense height fills me with terror.

You continue with your work as if nothing has changed in the world. Fists, violence are undreamt up but not you. You are a bird that plummets before beating its wings magically and being elevated to glory. All I have is your ghost alongside me in London. Your language has a body and I must translate it, dismantle it, and reassemble it into almosts. Sometimes all I know of the world is agony. I am a friend from England. In autumn, my lungs can freeze to death in this box of a room I stomp my boots on the floor. Giving, living, hoping is like the morning light. It reserves judgement. I love you. There I said it. I love you. You are mine to behold and adore. I look at every line on your face with a desperate curiosity. You can call me sentimental. I call it anticipatory nostalgia. There I said it and now I can never take it back again.


At the end of the day no matter how much I read it will never be enough. No matter how much I believe in the truths and humanity of Paulo Coelho, Susan Sontag, Anne Frank, Sigmund Freud, Jean Paul Sartre, Ayn Rand, Carl Jung, Franz Kafka, Abraham Maslow, Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi, President Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, William Shakespeare, Jerome David Salinger, David Foster Wallace, Anne Sexton, and Robert Lowell I want to live. Live with skill. Every woman is a self-portrait of a storehouse of images from her childhood.

Alongside shaking nerves, flesh and bone. Research. I truly admire other people’s skill. Their modernity. Their spirituality. My research is nothing like yours. I have abandoned myself to the hourglass and to literature. The female reflection in the mirror projected its lovely intellect, its ego, and awesome self onto me. Wear dresses the reflection told me. It will make you brave as if you are going out to war with another country or city where wolves, tigers and lions are forbidden. Every man is a philosopher. All human life is narcissistic.

Where you can eat a childhood breakfast that they served you up in the hotels you stayed in with your family as a child when you went on holiday all the time. There are rooms that feel as cold as winter. Rooms that feel as warm as summer. All you have to do is wish it into reality. Rooms where you bloom into culture and imagination. The roses of the awareness of creativity and the visions that comes with it. There are messages in the maps that I read and I hope it will always be that way. We all want power and control.

We do not plan this deceit. Poison has its own language like white picket fences and the body’s physicality.



A Presentation by Nikos Laios


Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel

We live in a cold rationalist western world of pop-up toasters, microwaves and newspaper pages filled with blood-soaked chaos and violence; genocide rape and torture of minorities, and the senseless slaughter of peaceful innocent western holiday-makers in Tunisia, while the world bankers ignore democracy and human decency by riding rough-shod over sovereign nations.

The world needs to rediscover its humanity again, and the fields under the humanities are even more important today then ever, in that it is through the treasure trove of the humanities that we can again find out humanity. The twenty first century in the imagination of past generations was an imagined future of prosperity and a new everlasting peace descending upon mankind. A new 'Jetsons' age,  but alas it has become far from that and one would have thought that after the greed, avarice, lust, greed and blood that humanity soaked itself from World War One right through to and after World War Two that we would have learned our lesson. Yet, it has become a world fractured with relativist and particularist selfish interest groups; an age of materialism and rationality where on the one hand, a part of the word seeks to destroy the mystical and the poetic within our human imagination and spirituality; and the other half of the world hide likes cowards in a so-called religious sensibility to become judge, jury and executioner to anyone that does not share its evil religious dystopian vision for mankind.

We have forgotten to ask questions for their own sake, to seek answers and truths for their own sake with no ulterior modus operandi other than the seeking of truth and knowledge that can set us free, and the question here is how can the humanities exactly help us in our quest to rediscover our humanity? For we must in away be like figures in an Arthurian legend on a holy quest seeking our silver chalice through wooded glens and rolling streams sliding over silver rocks, the early morning mists rising like vapours through the emerald forest and colourful flowers lighting our road to Avalon. Part of the secret to starting this quest is in opening the door to our imagination, that creaking rustic door on rusted hinges opening the door to warmed rooms with corners filled with the dreams and archetypes of our past and present and here the ideas of psychologist Carl Jung are prescient indeed. The other faculty that is required besides imagination is the innocence of children, the willingness to suspend our dry cynical minds and begin to wonder with awe and imagination at the cosmos and the universe and our place within it.

For how many generations have wondered gazing up to the heavens at the stars their souls gazing at the reflections of dreams and desires playing out in the heavens through the colours and constellations. The glowing northern lights to the whips of the Milky Way lacing our galaxy in its tendrilled warm motherly embrace. It is under this very panoply of dazzling, flashing stars that reflected the solitude of mankind for generations of men who thought about the human condition, created new ideas for them to be honed, crafted, perfected and passed down to each succeeding generation. From Democritus, Pythagoras, Thales, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Diogenes; to  wordsmiths like Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides and Sophocles who couched the human condition in the delicate crystal-laced pouch of timeless words crafted beautifully to pass on to us the universality of the human condition as they lived it, how succeeding generations of men and women lived it.

Then we move forward to that master of words William Shakespeare who stated in masterpieces like his play Julius Caesar through the mouth of Cassius in Act1 scene2 the following; "Men at some time are masters of their fates. The fault dear Brutus is not our stars but ourselves, that we are underlings." Then we have the famous words spoken through the mouth of one of Shakespeare's other characters Lady Macbeth who in his play Macbeth Act4 scene1 states the following: " Out, damned spot! Out, I say!One, two. Why, then, tis time to do t. Hell is murky!Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and a feard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him."

That words can have such power is a wonder, that works can hold and transmit the archetypal memory of bygone generations so that we can gleam a kernel of the universality and truth of the human condition as lived by our ancestors is an even greater wonder. One of the other great legacies of the humanities are the visual arts; a faculty that has allowed humanity from our very early primitive minds to allow the imagination of our souls to run unfettered across the cosmos through swaying gold wheat-fields and red poppies swaying gently under a chalky blue skies giving a meaning and definition to our existence through the ritual creation of symbols and shapes that have since become the dream language of our world. Where we can gaze up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel; at the alabaster coloured figures of saints and sinners, Angels and martyrs draped in repose by a babbling river hands outstretched upwards to the vaults of heaven taking us with them in their dazzling flights of fancy, a beautiful legacy of that Italian master Michelangelo. Then we travel forward in the history of mankind past the glorious Belle Époque era of France and past that to the lighting of cities with electric lights ,and the availability of hot and cold running water, the Eiffel Tower piercing the clouds, and the minds of the world congregating in its hitherto humble suburbs and abodes sharing a communion.

A communion of ideas, thoughts feelings and shared experiences; a focus on the human condition like there never has been before. Architects, Psychologists, writers, the theatre, dancers, the sensuous gastronomic modern symposium journey, languages and mysticism/religious ideas shared over the fruit of the wormwood within its milky-green aniseed liqueur. With that Iberian giant Picasso who straddled the first half of the twentieth century with his symbolic archetypal paintings that echo Cycladic art; with its twisted, warped and oozing shapes dripping with reds, greens, yellows and blues haunting with the beauty and the perfection with which he captured the human souls of his lovers, children and friends through the asymmetrical genius of the timeless shapes and colours.

Where music also completes the palate of the humanities; where in the later periods of human civilisation figures such as Claude Debussy or Erik Satie with his magical, melancholy, ethereal music through such works as  'Gnossienne 1,2,3' hark back to Ancient Greek mythology. To Theseus, Ariadne and the Minotaur,  with people dancing hands clasped under the Mediterranean sun in some olive or cypress groves dancing those ancient Greek chorus styled dances like a daisy chain on the soft feet of their innocence in a lost bucolic paradise.

Yet it is an unhappy augury that in the last twenty years, mankind has dumbed down and turned violent, cruel and cold heartless automatons with only selfishness in mind. A world where the selfish and inward-looking gaze at their navels pondering their subjectivity in their particularist and relativist Dantean circles of hell; the racists, the materialists, the capitalists, the communists, the feminists, the religious fanatics dwelling waist-deep in personal circles of hell of their own making because they fail to see the whole over the particular. There is no war of the sexes, there is no war of religions, there is no war over the material production; all these are illusionary manifestations of dystopian archetypes that have materialised due to the abandonment of our humanity, an abandonment of our imagination and an abandonment of our innocence because it is through their selfishness that mankind has descended into a circle of hell of its own making, yet our 'Beatrice' awaits us all.

In Friedrich Nietzsche's work 'The Gay Science' and in the section 'The Parable of the Madman', he states the following; "Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market-place, and cried incessantly: "I am looking for God! I am looking for God!" As many of those who did not believe in God were standing together there, he excited considerable laughter. Have you lost him, then? said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? or emigrated? Thus they shouted and laughed. The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances.

"Where has God gone?" he cried. "I shall tell you. We have killed him - you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God's decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us - for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto."

God or our imagination are dead only if we believe them to be so; the power of the humanities, of rediscovering our humanity in the humanities is very powerful and where it is also totemic in that we can re-establish our relationships with the plants and animals of this planet in a peaceful and symbiotic relationship. It is by placing again the humanities at the apogee of our world human civilisation that we can find both redemption and renewal.




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 -

22nd Meeting -23rd Meeting - 24th Meeting - 25th Meeting - 26th Meeting - 27th Meeting -

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 -


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