(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘philosophy

“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want”*…


How do you spend your days?  Since 2003, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the American Time Use Survey have asked thousands of people this question.  See the answers– and use interactive charts to see where you fit– at “Counting the Hours.”

* Calvin (Bill Watterson)


As we consider a nap, we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to Baruch (or Benedict) de Spinoza, the Dutch philosopher whose rationalism and determinism put him in opposition to Descartes and helped lay the foundation for The Enlightenment, and whose pantheistic views led to his excommunication from the Jewish community in Amsterdam; he was born on this date in 1632.

As men’s habits of mind differ, so that some more readily embrace one form of faith, some another, for what moves one to pray may move another to scoff, I conclude … that everyone should be free to choose for himself the foundations of his creed, and that faith should be judged only by its fruits; each would then obey God freely with his whole heart, while nothing would be publicly honored save justice and charity.

Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670



Written by LW

November 24, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Being perfectly well-dressed gives one a tranquility that no religion can bestow”*…


email readers click here for video

Longtime readers will know of your correspondent’s deep affection for Rube Goldberg (see here and here) and those he inspires (see here).  To wit, the above film– the first of a new series– from Joseph Herscher.

* Ralph Waldo Emerson


As we do it the amusing way, we might spare a thought for Blessed John (Johannes, Ioannes) Duns Scotus, O.F.M.; he died on this date in 1308.  One of the most important philosophers of the High Middle Ages (with his arch-rival, William of Ockham), he was a champion of a form of Scholasticism that came to be known as Scotism.

But he may be better remembered as a result of the slurs of 16th Century philosophers, who considered him a sophist– and coined the insult “dunce” (someone incapable of scholarship) from the name “Dunse” given to his followers in the 1500s.


Written by LW

November 8, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I never think of the future – it comes soon enough”*…


From The Guggenheim, “an online exhibition that enables you to take a position on the future of a world increasingly shaped by emerging technologies.”  Built with the help of a variety of contributors—from artists and architects to theorists and strategists–Åzone (from azone, ancient Greek for “without nation,” with reference to Åland, a unique and autonomous region of Finland, and the site of a Guggenheim-led retreat where this project was initiated) is “an online marketplace that allows visitors to learn about, discuss, and evaluate the effects of technology-driven change.”

Invest in the future at Åzone.

* Albert Einstein


As we place our bets, we might spare a reasoned thought for the Enlightenment giant John Locke; the physician and philosopher died on this date in 1704.  An intellectual descendant of Francis Bacon, Locke was among the first empiricists. He spent over 20 years developing the ideas he published in his most significant work, Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), an analysis of the nature of human reason which promoted experimentation as the basis of knowledge.  Locke established “primary qualities” (e.g., solidity, extension, number) as distinct from “secondary qualities” (sensuous attributes like color or sound).  He recognized that science is made possible when the primary qualities, as apprehended, create ideas that faithfully represent reality.

Locke is, of course, also well-remembered as a key developer (with Hobbes, and later Rousseau) of the concept of the Social Contract.  Locke’s theory of “natural rights” influenced Voltaire and Rosseau– and formed the intellectual basis of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.



Written by LW

October 28, 2015 at 1:01 am

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance”*…


Man in a Three-Piece Suit Dancing Within the Circle at a Wedding,” Rockville Centre, New York, 1976.


The first monograph by the New York-based photographer Meryl Meisler, published last year, included rambunctious scenes from Manhattan’s disco scene, taken in Meisler’s club-hopping youth, alongside images of a crumbling, pre-gentrifying Bushwick, shot when Meisler was teaching art at a local public school, in the early eighties. But, before she began documenting urban life in New York, Meisler trained her eye outside of the city, photographing her own Jewish extended family on Long Island’s South Shore. In the early seventies, while home on winter break from studying illustration at the University of Wisconsin, Meisler began experimenting with deadpan self-portraiture, donning the Girl Scouts uniforms and the ballet and tap costumes of her childhood. Soon she was photographing her parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins—the whole mishpocha—finding loopy antics and exaggerated period detail in holiday gatherings and daily ritual. The result is a delightfully outlandish family photo album, and a capsule of seventies suburbia crackling with humor and mischief. In the Meisler-clan milieu, kitsch bedspreads match kitsch wallpaper, hairdressers blow chewing-gum bubbles the size of their clients’ bouffants, Hustler is the beach reading of choice, and everyone is a character or a ham…

“Mom Getting Her Hair Teased at Besame Beauty Salon,” North Massapequa, New York.


See it all at “Seventies Long Island: The Whole Mishpocha.”

* George Bernard Shaw, Immaturity


As we prepare to reune, we might spare a utilitarian thought for Jeremy Bentham; the author, jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer died on this date in 1832.  Bentham is considered a founder of modern Utilitarianism (via his own work, and that of students including James Mill and his son, John Stuart Mill); he actively advocated individual and economic freedom, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and the decriminalizing of homosexual acts. He argued for the abolition of slavery and the death penalty, and for the abolition of physical punishment, including that of children.

Bentham was involved in the founding of University College (then, the University of London), the first in England to admit all, regardless of race, creed, or political belief.  On his death, he was dissected as part of a public anatomy lecture– as he specified in his will.  Afterward– again, as Bentham’s will specified– the skeleton and head were preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet called the “Auto-icon”, with the skeleton stuffed out with hay and dressed in Bentham’s clothes.  Bentham had intended the Auto-icon to incorporate his actual head, preserved to resemble its appearance in life.  But experimental efforts at mummification, though technically successful, left the head looking alarmingly macabre, with dried and darkened skin stretched tautly over the skull.  So the Auto-icon was given a wax head, fitted with some of Bentham’s own hair.

It is normally kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of University College.  The real head was displayed in the same case as the Auto-icon for many years, but became the target of repeated student pranks, so is now locked away.

 see a virtual, 360-degree rotatable version here

Written by LW

June 6, 2015 at 1:01 am

“A city that was to forge out of steel and blood-red neon its own peculiar wilderness”*…


A woman and her work


Las Vegas– and the world– lost two icons of neon sign design on April 19th: Betty Willis, seen above with the iconic “Welcome” sign that she designed, and Brian “Buzz” Leming, creator of many of the Strip’s most memorable marquees, passed away within hours of each other.

Leming’s “Hacienda Horse and Rider”


Willis and Leming both worked at the Western Sign Company, where they struck up a friendship.  Many of their creations are preserved in the Neon Museum’s outdoor “Boneyard,” where it stores its relics.

The Neon Museum’s Boneyard


More at “Two Designers of Las Vegas’s Iconic Neon Signs Died on the Same Day.”

* Nelson Algren (writing about Chicago, though it’s surely apropos of Las Vegas as well)


As we switch on the lights, we might send forbearing birthday wishes to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; he was born on this date in 121.  The last of the Five Good Emperors, Marcus Aurelius is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers; his Meditations, written on campaign before he became emperor, is still a central text on the philosophy of service and duty.



Written by LW

April 26, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language”*…


Wittgenstein playing Pictionary with Freud; Russell, Hegel, and Marx as Pokemon characters; Sartre’s birthday party; Greek Hold’em– all this and much, much more merriment (in larger format) at the exquisite Existential Comics.  The inevitable anguish of living a brief life in a absurd world.  Also jokes.

* Ludwig Wittgenstein


As we get behind the greater good, we might spare a thought for Johann Christoph Denner; he died on this date in 1707. One of the Baroque Era’s leading musical instrument makers, he was renown throughout Europe for his well-tuned recorders, flutes, oboes, and bassoons.  But he is best remembered as the inventor the clarinet, a result of Denner’s attempts to refine the chalumeau, the first true single reed instrument.  The chalumeau and clarinet are the only woodwinds with a cylindrical bore; others (including the flute) have a conical bore.



Written by LW

April 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I think it’s cool to wear roadkill”*…

Anna Paquin, modeling a piece from her line of “found fur” clothing and accessories

Approximately 50 million animals are killed every year for their fur; by comparison, 1 million animals a day— 365 million a year– are killed on the roads of America.  As Culture Change puts it, “only meat-eaters take a larger toll than its motorists.”

Where many animal lovers see, simply, tragedy, Anna Paquin sees opportunity as well.  Determined to create a clothing category that might sound oxymoronic– “ethical fur”– Paquin has founded Petit Mort, a company that recycles roadkill into fashionable clothing and accessories.

Wrap yourself in Anna’s story at “One Woman Is Revolutionizing the Fur Industry. By Using Roadkill.”

* Ke$ha


As we bundle up, we might spare a thought for Hypatia; she was killed on this date in 370 CE.  A mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher, she was the head of the Neoplatonic school at Alexandria.  She was murdered by a mob of Christian anti-pagan fanatics on the steps of an Alexandria church called The Caesarium– as a result of which, she has become a symbol of martyred Reason and of feminism. Stephen Greenblatt suggests that her murder “effectively marked the downfall of Alexandrian intellectual life”; Kathleen Wider proposes that her murder marked the end of Classical antiquity.

Neo-platonism is a progressive philosophy, and does not expect to state final conditions to men whose minds are finite. Life is an unfoldment, and the further we travel the more truth we can comprehend. To understand the things that are at our door is the best preparation for understanding those that lie beyond.



Written by LW

March 3, 2015 at 1:01 am


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,159 other followers

%d bloggers like this: