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Hope wanted
by Thanos Kalamidas
2007-10-08 09:56:15
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Over the last months I have had the feeling that everything goes wrong and I really hope this feeling is just temporary and nothing to do with reality. But again, reading what's going on around the world makes you feel a bit depressed. It's as if people never learn, it is as though they cannot even be bothered to read their own latest history and see that they are repeatedly committing the same mistakes.

I’m one of those who reads a lot of history and I have long had this strange feeling that I can see something the Athenians or Romans did nearly twenty-three centuries ago happening again; things that happened just a few decades ago are storming back into our lives changing everything we knew. The worst is that when they come they are ten times worse than they were the times before.

Just look at Burma. You feel that you have read the story before; you have the sense that you’ve seen the drama that has unravelled over these last months in the seventies in Africa and in the sixties in Asia - you would think that people had learned. You would think that they seen the end of all these dictators, generals, colonels and whatever else. You have the feeling that the world has learned and is ready to protect with all these different institutions.

'Protect' suddenly sounds such a big word. You would expect from all these people who advertise the good of globalization to do something to protect the simple citizen of this earth. However, the only issue that is global at the moment is the misery of the citizen of this poor earth, the only thing that is increasing seems to be poverty, including the number of homeless, the number of sick and helpless and that’s the only global thing.

What has happened in Burma over the last three decades, since we often forget that the Burmese dictatorship didn’t start with the televised pictures of the monks marching on the streets, is something that has happened before and very close to us or have we forgotten Guernica? I don’t mean the Picasso painting, but the actual Biscayan city that was flattened by aerial bombing by the Nazis and Franco. How many died then? How many were innocent? How many more are going to die now, with or without the purple cape the monks wear in Burma?

When WWII ended and everybody was sure that Hitler was dead, everybody said, never again! North Korea, Zimbabwe, Burma, Iran, Pakistan; is this what we meant by never again? The United Nations and the Security Council were founded to guarantee this 'never again' but the new secretary of the UN is still trying to find the army that will guarantee peace in Darfur, with its millions of dead and hundreds still dying every month, yet this peacekeeping force still hasn't arrived.

Sudan is dying every day. The General Secretary sends his special envoy to Burma for what? When the time came for a decision in the UN concerning the invasion of Iraq the American administration just ignored everybody and, with the support of Blair, invaded the country with the results we see everyday. What will the envoy do in Burma?

If you don’t stop torturing, raping, killing a nation we will call the boogie man? Is that the lesson we learned from history? Weeks before the beginning of WWII the British Prime Minister Chamberlain returned to London waving a paper that was a treaty he had signed with Hitler and said proudly, "At last, peace!" It took a few days, even before the ink had dried, for WWII to start and Hitler was invading Europe.

Does anybody believe that the cleric dictatorship in Iran and their puppet president will keep nuclear power only for peace reasons? Does anybody believe that Mugabe wants the good of his people; is anybody out there who believes that Gen. Musharraf will bring peace to that part of earth? Is any hope out there?

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Emanuel Paparella2007-10-08 10:49:26

Marx quipped that those who ignore their history are bound to repeat it and Santayana added “and the second time not as a tragedy but as a farce.” In the face of such dour observations, the temptation to pure rationalism or nihilism is powerful. Plato succumbed to the former, discounting history as leading to any kind of truth and proclaiming universal transcendent truths not marred by the fallacy of the senses; Nietzsche succumbed to the latter seeing in history an eternal return with no discernible meaning or purpose mitigated only by Man’s “will to power.” The swastika is a cross indeed but one closed upon itself. But there is a third alternative, that proposed by the father of the modern historical consciousness Giambattista Vico. He proposed that Man is his own history and while Man makes history out of nothing, it is paradoxically equally true that history makes Man. Yes, there are recurring cycles within history (that of the gods, of the heroes and of Men) but they are not closed upon themselves or separate from each other, rather they are similar to a spiral with a perceivable if not yet wholly clear purpose. When Man resists the temptations to rationalism devoid of the poetic and of nihilism and looks at history as Mankind’s story to narrate to itself and by which to arrive at meaning and purpose, then history leads him to self-knowledge and to hope for the future. Self knowledge is a different kind of knowledge from knowledge of nature, mathematical knowledge or metaphysical knowledge in fact it is a surer kind of knowledge than knowledge of nature since Man has not made nature and he can fully know only what he himself has made, the artifacts and institutions of his history.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-08 11:23:38

P.S. Any reader looking for hope in the future and interested in further weekly explorations of the philosophy of history of G. Vico are welcome to click on the above link which will lead them to “a journey into the mind of Vico” as recounted in Global Spiral of the Metanexus Institute for the study of religion and science.

Sand2007-10-08 11:45:55
Despite Marx and Santayana those organizations and pundits that remember and exalt the past repeat it continuously in the face of persistent evidence that it leads to tragedy.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-08 14:43:49
There is Plato, Nietzche and Vico's views of history and then there is Henry Ford's which takes the price:

"History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker's dam is the history we made today."

--Henry Ford, Interview in Chicago Tribune, May 25th, 1916
US automobile industrialist (1863 - 1947)

That is the equivalent to advocating the burning of all history books. Indeed, who needs history and memory of one's history when amnesia and ignorance can do as well and allow a capitalist to sell more polluting cars while laughing all the way to the bank?

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-08 15:53:50
P.S. That philosophy of history of Henry Ford translated into a paradigmatic play which he made all his immigrant workers perform. It was called The Melting Pot. The immigrants would come out on the left of the stage dressed in their traditional garments, enter a boiling cauldron and then exit on the right dressed in modern American garb. They had been purified, melted and properly dressed. So much for the native cultures of Europe, not to speak of those of native Americans. Indeed, history is bunk and the future is not hard to imagine for those who still have imagination.

Nessim2007-10-08 16:30:47
Actually the original Marx words are: "Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." (The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.1852) Santayana was born on 1863.

Sand2007-10-08 16:43:35
I doubt the ancient Greek philosophers lacked either imagination or intelligence and I doubt they imagined the automobile, the spaceship, the space station, dark matter, the atomic bomb, the electric toaster, the cell phone, television, genetic engineering and so on. On that basis I believe it is safe to assume there are things in our future that we cannot imagine. The idiocy of assuming that history must not be examined in the light of current knowledge and cleared of obvious nonsense before deciding what elements are worth preserving is, to say the least, unfortunate.

Asa2007-10-08 17:46:34
I agree Sand.

You only have to look at the imagination of sci-fi writers.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-08 17:54:01
Thanks for the exegetical correction Mr. Nessim. It was in fact Santayana who in his The Life of Reason said that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," and Marx, who who does one better on Hegel on the same subject. In any case, aside from the exegesis, I remain convinced that what those scholars said on history stands in stark contrast to Henry Ford's cavalier description of the same implying that what arrives at the end is always better than what trinspired in the past, that progress is inevitable and determined when in fact the Men running Nazi Germany only sixty years ago went ethically further back than Neanderthal Man. For, a society without history is like an individual without memory living in an insane asylum and unable to plan a viable future.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-08 17:59:12
P.S. If one cam grasp the Vichian idea that Man is his own history than one will also grasp the idea that history is not archeology to be placed in dusty books or in musueums but it is integral part of Man's existential situation.

Sand2007-10-08 18:12:14
There has never, in this discussion, a proposal that all history should be discarded but merely that it should be examined very carefully for those elements which are valid and those that have been rendered suspect by more recent revelation. The repeated insistence that someone here is proposing to ignore all of history betrays some sort of strange agenda to discredit any intelligent examination of what parts of history are worthwhile and what parts are no longer applicable or perhaps bear any respect for truth. I doubt if anybody with good sense could agree with what is claimed as Henry Ford's attitude towards history. I am most curious as to the source of what pre-Neanderthal culture might have been.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-08 19:38:22
I am most curious as to the lack of imagination which will not allow one to consider that what the civilized "barbarians of the intellect" of the 20th century planned in two hours and executed in four short years in both Germany and the Soviet Union was never done either by Man, previous to or after Neanderthal, nor by apes or any other species of animals. It took modern and its abuses of reason to accomplish that and I am afraid that to comprehend the enormity of what was done only 60 years ago and its consequences for Man's humanity, takes less rationality and cool logic (which is only part of reason and not the whole)and more imagination and spirituality.

Nessim2007-10-08 19:41:13
Thank you Mr Paparella. Because of your comment on Thanos excellent post, I discovered George Santayana that had never read something of him..I already downloaded his major works from project Gutenberg.

Sand2007-10-08 20:06:40
Ah well. Paparella has again subsided into his automatic mode pulling out a pre-recorded piece of standard verbal routine in the manner of the cuttlefish which squirts a cloud of murky ink to distract an interested follower while he zooms away in an obscure direction not confronting any of my queries. Very well, poor frightened shy Paparella. That wasn't even a nice try.

Sand2007-10-08 20:49:54
I am continuously astounded by Mr.P's absolute neglect of the centuries of persecution of the Jews in his beloved Italy and other Christian countries where they were forced to live in separate enclaves. The reiteration that the Jewish persecution was hatched in two hours by a bunch of sadistic maniacs bespeaks of some profound strange ignorance of the history he claims to respect or a pitiful pathological inability to face obvious reality. My ancestors were chased out of Europe by the antisemitic factions in a Christian country in the late nineteenth century so I have concrete evidence that the Nazis were taking advantage of a long Christian tradition which was hatched (if the term can be so used) in Christian circles over considerably longer than two hours.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-08 22:12:09
Were one to go along with Mr. S.’s fallacious and misguided notion, the not so secret agenda he keep on peddling, that religion in general and Catholicism in particular is responsible for all that is evil and despicable in the history of modern Man in Europe and elsewhere, I have no doubt that he would heartily approve and welcome me with open harms to the slightly fanatical orthodoxy of the ax-grinders against Catholicism; those who since Voltaire and company consider themselves part of a superior “enlightened” ethos, contemptuous of tradition and of the hard lessons that history can teach to anybody willing to study it carefully and reflectively; but it would still remain a lie and a slander and the Holocaust and its causes would still remain a unique monstrosity reproaching his hubris and waiting to be comprehended fully. Alas, there is a still greater monstrosity: that of a hard-wired rationalism devoid of the poetical and the spiritual which is not able to recognize the Holocaust for what it really is.

Sand2007-10-08 23:49:59
Do I sense a morsel of pique? No matter. Catholicism must jostle with a crowd of human nastiness to claim supremacy. No doubt the root of Catholicism generated many many strange flowers, some of which displayed erudition and great humanity, and many did terrible things to multitudes for it was a growth of centuries and like any human power organization its soul was and is essentially power and power is always cruel. And its myth, like all myths, may be poetry but it is poetic fantasy with no regard for truth.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-09 11:59:07
Mr. Nessim, indeed Santayana can be an eye opener. He was a sort of paradox: he was an atheists (but an intelligent one who did not consider his point of view as "enlightened" and superior) who died in Rome in a Catholic monastery. He understood fully Vico's dictum that Man is his own history and that without understanding that simple notion all the technical wonders and paraphanelia of modernity will not save Western Civilization. History for him, as for Vico, was not archeology but life; which is to say he understood the importance of the historical consciosness for a proper understanding of what makes the West tick. For a more thorough elaboration on the historical consciousness by your truly click on the link below:


Jack2007-10-10 02:44:54
A nation's history and propaganda are sometimes hard to seperate; however even at the risk of this, there must be at the least a record of such past events to have a semblance of understanding of where one is at the present year. This is what, I believe, gives a nation an identity, and helps their society live accordingly (based upon their past experiences).

Some history is his-story (man's) but they belong the the people.

Jack2007-10-10 02:46:55
Please let me add, you are exactly right. What past mistakes that are forgotten are destined to be repeated. Good article.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-10 11:02:15
Jack, when Vico pointed out that Man is his history he meant that vis history which he himself makes Man may get to self-knowledge, for he can know fully only what he himself has made. Nature which was made by God can only be known partially. Therefore history is superior to science when it comes to self-knowledge. It is significant that Vico did not call his opus A New Poetry, or A New Philosophy, but A New Science.

Sand2007-10-10 14:04:40
Anthropology and astronomy are simultaneously history and science

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-10 16:47:38
True to form, the point was either distorted or missed and apples have been compared to oranges. As regards self-knowledge astronomy is the history of the universe and cannot lead to self-knowledge in a direct way because Man did not create the universe. He has however created history out of nothing and of that he can have a surer knowledge than what astronomy yelds. When anthropology is considered the scientific study of an object or phenomenon called Man, then it is no longer history but inferior science (vis a vis self-knowldege) and will not lead to self-knowledge but to dehumanization to conceiving of Man as nothing else but the sum of its parts. It will lead to the the world of "I-it" and the modern Nazi making lampshade with human skin, and the post-modern Man making chemicals with dead bodies to be sold on the market.

Sand2007-10-10 18:07:27
Difficult as it is to try to convey sense to someone so intellectually turned inward that one or two simpleminded ideas is the persistent destination of any interchange I must point out that the nature of the universe is a very critical influence on almost any intellectual viewpoint dealing with both the nature and situation of humanity and this has been true since the dawn of civilization as witnessed bu the much admired poetry in these discussions. Anthropology, of course, is even closer to humanity.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-10 19:47:27
Of course the nature of the universe has a bearing on Man's humanity. Forrest Gump can grasp that much and most sane people would agree, but that was not the point. The Vichian point was this: that when it comes to self-knowledge (what it meand to be human) what is derived from history is more accurate and more valuable for man than knowledged of nature. Technological Man who misguidedly believes that technology can give answers to existential issues relating to Man's nature and the purpose of human life, has difficulty wrapping his mind around that simple idea but that does not mean we should lose hope, for hope is always born anew. That conspiracy of hope is what keeps this brave new world sane. For a more thorough analysis of that idea see the above mentioned link to the Metanexus Institute.

Sand2007-10-10 22:04:20
One of the primary points at which the religious viewpoint and that of science are 180 degrees apart is that religion sees nature as an amusing and useful adjunct to human domination of the universe whereas science sees humanity and all other life deeply embedded in the matrix of matter and energy in space and time. The religious viewpoint has substantially contributed to the contempt with which humanity treats the environment. The body, in general in religion, is totally subservient to the rather ghostly insubstantial spirit and religions treat body functions also with contempt. Which is why religious people pray to be saved instead of using their perceptive and intellectual capability to stay alive and healthy. To deny human embedment in nature, which is the essence of science, is to be guilty of extreme hubris.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-10 22:29:37
Obviously you and those of a like mind-set have never heard of the "incarnation," an indispensable doctrine of Christianity and the humanistic implications of such a belief as regards nature, the body and matter, or of a St. Francis of Assisi or Tehilard de Chardin who was discussed in this very magazine. But it appears that there wasn't much listening going on; too many other voices in one's brain or perhaps too busy grinding the ax against religion? Pity!

Sand2007-10-11 04:21:12

Sand2007-10-11 05:05:05
Tehilard or Teilhard or whatever is nicely disposed of at http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/Medawar/phenomenon-of-man.html
if you had been paying attention.
http://www.ccel.org/contrib/exec_outlines/fs/fs_01.htm is a source to examine as to where religion lies as to the importance of reality in contrast to the cloud cuckoo concepts of spiritual nonsense.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-11 12:10:33
Indeed, how can solipsistic narcissistic monologues allow for any kind of listening. The operative words in your true to form glib reply are “nicely disposed of.” That is the penchant of all rationalists: they rationalize and dispose of, with a few “logical” sparring and selected data, complex issues and truths which have taken life-times for experts to arrive at, not to speak of the centuries of dialogue on the subject. They confuse all of that with caricature. Vico aptly calls that kind of arrogant operation “the barbarism of the intellect.” As I remember, Sir Midwar who was chosen by you as the “disposer” of De Chardin’s thought (even before the whole article on him had been posted) was a scientist with no expertise whatsoever in philosophy and theology and wrote a memoir titled “Memoir of a Thinking Radish.” Having won a Nobel prize for medicine somehow conferred on him the right to denigrate and pontificate on matters about which he knew next to nothing.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-11 12:13:42
P.S.Here is the original posted reply:

Not surprisingly and true to form Mr. Sand, who obviously considers himself the knight champion of the ideology of secular atheism in this forum (to be defended with a big well ground ax at any cost and by any means) has once again pre-judged a piece by only half of its content. This time, he has resorted with panic to some heavy cannon (as Napoleon said: victory belongs to those with the heaviest cannon): a Nobel winner for medicine and a decorated knight to boot. He of course follows in the collective charge with a few lines and a pearl of wisdom of his own denigrating Blaise Pascal. Neither of the two nights are in any way experts in Humanism and philosophy and theology but since when has that been an obstacle to a good satisfying clever by half charge? Sir Midwar, whose name rings no bells in most people’s mind, wrote a memoir in 1986, just before his death, titled “Memoirs of a Thinking Radish.” Need we to add more? He was probably in that august body of Nobel laureate who came together a few decades ago to discuss the problem of children’s hunger in the world under the auspices of a famous journalist and interviewer, Sir Frost. I still think that Octavio Paz, a Mexican Nobel prize winner for poetry but no Knight alas, had by far the better insight on the issue in that forum. As Pirandello, another Nobel prize winner, said once: to each his own. He also said in regard to Six Character in Search of an Author that sometimes after we have worn a mask for a long time we become our masks and forget our faces.

Sand2007-10-11 13:07:55
Really now Pappy, I thought you objected to ad hominem! Not one argument in all that verbal horse muck, mere character sniping as usual. Typical!

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-11 15:25:32
Indeed, how can any kind of fruitful dialogue ensue with those who descend to distortin their interlocutor's last name? Pretty hopeless. But since the title of this piece by Mr. Kalamidas happens to be "Hope wanted" I'd like to conclude with a thought which attempts to supply some. And the thought is this: there are two approaches to history and they are both important and need to be kept in harmony. One is that of the rationalist which calls it "bunk" and wants to bring it to judgment in the light in what he considers the present "enlightenment" to choose and pick what he likes. The other approach is that of keeping an open mind and remain ready to learn from the lessons of history and even be ready to acknowledge that some things were done and thought better in the past. As Vico has well taught us the approaches are complementary, not opposite to each other. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-11 15:28:09
(continued from above)
Vico points out that it is crucial that the certum, the records of history, be understood as that which man has made, the factum. Here again Vico’s insight is that the certum and the factum are convertible; which is to say, history leads to knowledge; more specifically it leads to self-knowledge when it approaches its own documents (the certum) with the understanding that these are what other selves have created in history. We are then within Vico’s hermeneutical circle: whenever Man creates in history, and above all when he creates language, he creates a structure that constitutes an interpretation of his experience. In turn that interpretation organizes the world around him. The study of history turns out to be an ongoing understanding and evaluation, in effect a constant reinterpretation, of these interpretative structures which men have created. There is no such thing as “objective” history, once, once and for all as some historians, in their eagerness to declare their discipline a “science” would contend. If history is to be a science it needs to be a science of humanity; one that does not treat Man as an object to be studied but takes into account his constitutive freedom.

Sand2007-10-11 16:15:32
Unfortunate that a mere attempt to use a friendly nickname should raise such intemperate ire. So be it. Paparella Ph.D. requires proper obeisance to his name an perhaps a kneel and a kiss on the school ring will bring about a more accommodating mein.

The minor deity Vico, according to Paparella Ph.D. proposes, If I can peek around the Latin and the explanations of the Latin and hop over the cobblestone syntax indicates that history is merely the accumulations of the misunderstood interpretations of a series of prejudiced temporal fairy tales and not in any way to be misconstrued as laden with anything factually worthwhile. I admit to having a touch of paranoia on the appropriate occasion but this viewpoint seems to me to be quite a bit overboard. The Bible, on this basis, must be tossed out with worn sneakers and smelly socks with holes in the toes. One must, it seems, pay particular attention to constitutive freedom. Now, what in the world can constitutive freedom be? Is it freedom as stated in the U.S.Constitution? Unlikely since Vico probably knew little or anything of that. Then perhaps the freedom of the physiological constitution of the body. The freedom to pump blood, to digest food, to excrete and perhaps pass a bit of innocuous unsocial gas at inopportune moments with great discretion as to exclude any other post-digestive matter in public situations. Hmm. As usual, Paparella Ph.D. leaves us in mystery.

Sand2007-10-11 16:33:07
Incidentally, "To each his own",
originally Chacon son goût seems to have innumerable sources. Was the Nobel prize of Pirandello the bait that made you choose him?

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-11 18:21:03

Όμηρος θα είχε καλέσει το ανωτέρω σχόλιο poetics του defacation. Το Pirandello ήταν σωστό: κάθε δικοί του.

Sand2007-10-11 20:15:46
Cryptic. Another rock to hide under.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-11 22:19:23
I wondering which rock were you hiding under for approximately three months Mr. Sand sans Ph.D. Perhaps some dark cave (where wolves in lambs clothing congregate to grind their axes) without a guiding light?

Sand2007-10-12 00:29:06
Paparella PH.D., I found you annoying and monomaniacally simple minded in our previous exchanges and decided that interacting with you was a useless operation but I was specifically requested to return to this publication by the editors and so complied.

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