Posts Tagged ‘utilitarianism’
From electricity, giant telescopes, escalators, diesel turbines, and talking movies, the 1900 World’s Fair promised dazzling technology for the 50 million visitors who flocked to Paris. But among the expo’s 80,000 exhibitions, one comparatively low-tech production from the American contingent demonstrated perhaps the most consequential achievement of that time.
“The Exhibit of American Negroes” enshrined the contributions of African Americans to the US economy, just 35 years after slavery was abolished in the US. The showcase within the fair’s Palace of Social Economy featured a gallery of photographs, 350 patents awarded to black inventors, a small statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, 200 books and periodicals by black scholars including an illustrated study by the noted sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois…
The extraordinary works that Du Bois had his students (at [Clark] Atlanta University) create are riveting both for their account of Africa-American life at the turn of the last century and for their remarkable power as infographics. See them at “Hand-drawn infographics commissioned by W.E.B. Du Bois illuminate how Black Americans lived in the 1900s.”
* Toni Morrison
As we agree with Ali,** we might send utilitarian birthday greetings to Jeremy Bentham; the author, jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer was born on this date in 1748. 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.
** “Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.” – Muhammad Ali
University College London proudly displays the remains of one of its founders, the Father of Utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham. They’re also anxious to display his works… but they comprise 60,000 manuscript folios– lots of handwriting to transcribe. The college has been at it since 1959, and the going has been slow– until relatively recently:
The genesis of Transcribe Bentham was in 2009, when the Co-Director of the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, Melissa Terras, was asked by the head of the Bentham Project, Professor Philip Schofield, for advice on procuring funding to digitise the 60,000 folios. “The days for getting funding for pure ‘scan and dump’ digitisation projects are over,” explains Terras, “and I wondered if we could do something more interesting.”
Around the same time, the MPs expenses scandal had broken in the UK, and Terras noticed something interesting: “The Guardian newspaper had built a platform to allow their readers to sift through the thousands of pages of MP’s receipts and I wondered — could we do the same? Could we ask people to read these manuscripts?”
The answer is a definite “yes.” Transcribe Bentham has been a certifiable success, and continues to grow in scale. With funding from the Mellon Foundation, the project has now expanded to encompass the British Library’s collection of 12,500 manuscript folios by Bentham…
[Read the whole story at Gizmodo.uk]
As the digitization has proceeded– in many cases, the first reading of Bentham’s scrawls– some interesting discoveries have been made; the exploration has shed new light, for instance of his stance on animal rights. But perhaps most surprisingly, volunteer readers have discovered a tranche of recipes (complete with the costs of their ingredients) from the great thinker. An excerpt from the manuscript page above:
The husks of ripe
walnuts at the time
They separate most
easily from the walnut
& before they begin
6 tb — 1d
Salt 1 tb 1
Pound the husks adding the salt when they are nearly bruised into an uniform mass so that it may be perfectly mixed. This & all other pickles must be kept in close vessels, casks headed down, jars with bladder tied over the mouth, or cloth or paper covered with melted pitch &c. When a stone vessel is opened it should be emptied into smaller ones, so that no more than sufficient for two or three weeks consumption may be put into each.
See Bentham’s other culinary creations– and the rest of his work– at Transcribe Bentham.
As we clear our palettes, we might send unorthodox birthday greetings to Otto Gross; he was born on this date in 1877. A psychoanalyst by training (he was an early disciple of Freud), Gross became a champion of an early form of anti-psychiatry (“depth psychology“) and sexual liberation, and an anarchist. His impact on psychology was limited (though Jung claimed that Gross “changed [his] entire worldview”); but he was an important influence on D. H. Lawrence, Franz Kafka, and other artists– including the founders of Berlin Dada.