Sunday, 18 October 2020

Life in the Plague Times, Part III: A Hero For Our Times

by Simon Smith

Sisyphus, O Sisyphus,
The hero of the age.
 
A hill he climbs,
From ancient times,
His quiff is all the rage.

Sisyphus, O Sisyphus,
The hero of the age.
 
A rock he heaves,
But never ‘chieves,
The rest that we all crave.
 
Sisyphus, O Sisyphus,
The hero of the age.
 
Absurdity!
He knows it be.
For toil he gets no wage.
 
Sisyphus, O Sisyphus,
The hero of the age.
 
Upon his back,
The tattooed rack,
Of pinup Bettie Page.
 
Sisyphus, O Sisyphus,
The hero of the age,
                The fan of Betty Paige,
                                Whose quiff is all the rage.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Life in the Plague Times, Part II

by Simon Smith

On the off chance that anyone hasn’t already guessed, I recently turned, for the first time in many years and only partly because of the present circumstances, to Camus. The Plague is top of my reading list, naturally.[1] Before that turning, however, I re-turned to The Myth of Sisyphus, unread since undergraduate days, sometime in the late fourteen-hundreds. As then so now: ruminating on reality and the absurdity of existence might profit the soul without being particularly amusing. There are very, very few jokes in Camus.
Having glossed Sisyphus and, I hope, drawn out the pricking point of application, the question arises: where, then, does all this leave us? At a moment of awakening, perhaps. Sisyphus’ eternity of punishment is, we know, absurd, meaningless in every possible sense. It achieves nothing; it is no use, even as a punishment, this eternal stone rolling, since one cannot learn from it and no change will come about because of it. Like Hell, its only conceivable purpose is revenge. But one must then ask, what’s the point of that? It is, in fact, all rather too much, too late.
And where does that leave us? Well, let’s not labour the point. Recent months have brought us all closer, much closer, to mortality, our own and that of those all around us. Yet here we are, so very far from the end, being driven back to ‘normality’ and striving with all our might to get there. Sadly, however, ‘normal’ is no longer there; and while the striving itself is, apparently, normal, it may not be healthy; that is to say, potentially fatal and not quite sane. Worse still, this ‘normality’ we yearn for, it is absurd, clearly and unequivocally. It is not worth grieving for, this ‘normality’. Not now that we have learned the truth of Doctor Rieux’s words: that ‘goodbye’ is no longer a mere formality. (Those of us with loved ones who work in hospitals and Health Care are still learning it, we learn it anew each day.)
It does not, of course, matter one jot or tittle whether we agree on this, whether we believe or not; as the good Doctor says, the plague makes opinion redundant. Even faith can’t save us.
So where does this leave us? Simple. Like Hector, atop the shining towers of ancient Ilium; below, the city walls, impregnable, yet girt by fate and bloody battlefields.
The point is not preach inertia, but to ask, can we, like Hector, knowing what we know, go on and meet what is to come. Or Camus’ question: can we live on this precipice without giving up? Can we live cheerfully and without appeal, since there is no one and nothing to appeal to? Or shall we choose negation and sedation; follow Kierkegaard over the edge; or shall we, as Lovecraft wondered, surrender and go mad from the revelation, fleeing into the peace and safety of a new dark age?
We shall see, we shall see

[1] If any readers are able to access it, BBC Radio 4 has broadcast Neil Bartlett’s stage version, recorded during the 2020 lockdown while the actors were isolating in their homes. It’s quite harrowing, but still a remarkable play: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000l7kf. Any references to The Plague herein are to this version.


Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Inscriptions Vol 4, No. 1: Final Call For Papers

 INSCRIPTIONS

journal for contemporary thinking on 
art, philosophy and psycho-analysis


Deadline: 15 October 2020.

Ethics, the question of how to live right and well, has been one of philosophy’s key concerns from its beginnings. In the thought of Wolfgang Schirmacher the ethical life is connected to artifice: subjected to the event of technology we recognise our ethical being in mediated form, and it is through reflecting on this our present condition that we can begin regain our composition as ethical subjects.

For our volume 4, n1, Inscriptions, a journal for contemporary thinking on art, philosophy and psycho-analysis, seeks essays that reflect on, interrogate, and bring new perspectives to the notion of artificial life and ethical living in general. Key questions include:

· How must I compose myself in order to live a good, satisfying life?

· What is the good life, and what values are relevant to us in our present time?

· How has the figure of the subject been challenged by our technological order, and how may we begin to ethically reassess our present condition?

Submit your manuscript (of up to 5000 words) through our online platform. Proposals receive a preliminary assessment. All scholarship published by Inscriptions undergoes double-blind peer review. We also accept book reviews, commentaries, and short interventions of up to 1500 words.

Open Access, no APCs

Access to content in this journal remains open on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge. For this upcoming issue we will not charge authors for submission or publication.

Inscriptions is published online and in print, and is indexed by, among others, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Our authors include Wolfgang Schirmacher, Siobhan Doyle, Christopher Norris, and Jørgen Veisland.

Our issues are archived electronically and in print by Norway's National Library.

Recent Issues

· Inscriptions 3, no. 2: Open Issue, July 2020

· Inscriptions 3, no. 1: Outsourced!, January 2020

· Inscriptions 2, no. 2: Kierkegaard, July 2019

· Inscriptions 2, no. 1: The Global Unconscious, January 2019

· Inscriptions 1, no. 1-2: Consecrations, July 2018

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Torgeir Fjeld
Editor-in-Chief, Inscriptions


https://inscriptions.tankebanen.no/

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Life in the Plague Times, Part I

Stands Sisyphus, blue-chinned cheek by rocky jowl with stone-faced fate. Tendons, taut and twanging, muscles standout straining from sweat-slick swarthy skin; grunting, gritted teeth; large hands, calloused, hardup against hard; feet trenching earth below. So Sisyphus drives both body and destiny up and up and up. The rock moves slowly, but it moves.
Eventually, eternally – it seems like an eternity but, in fact, is only the smallest fraction – Sisyphus reaches the top. For a moment of eternity, stretched seemingly but a smaller fraction still, he stands in stasis, balanced on not-being. Time stops, compromising rock on the fine edge of its last up roll, lipping the first back roll. Feet plant hard against the hard, instinctively, bootless toes trying hard to root themselves bootlessly in the unwelcoming hard earth.
Pause. Breathe. A moment of pure peace, non-being-just-being-itself-a-moment.
Before, inevitably, eternally, eternity returns in time and the balance breathes out, unrolls; bootless toes uproot, unbooted, and rough rock roughly shoulders Sisyphus aside, unrolling bolderly back down a track to its resting place at the restart.
Sisyphus, still standing, stretches soundlessly and unsoundlessly: arching aching back his back. Exhaling, clasped hands above his head, he makes the stretching noise. Then, deep breathing, goes jogging down-a-down the hill, following the unrolling, to the place where his rough rock, Michael, waits beardlessly to begin again.
Breathing, back in place, Sisyphus, unsinagain, stretches once again: hip-twisting, ham-stringing and re-stringing, tiptoe touching, shoulder-rolling, neck re-rolling; three by three, east to west, sun by stars; then puffpuff and shake out. Hands to the rough rock-Michael’s face, cool under the white sun, he blows bilabially, bracing for the strain. Rock-Michael, bracing, steady strong and Robert-ready to push and pull together in common cause of common destiny, Bruce-fully back to the stop of the hill, slowly slowly.
Nearby, tantalisingly close, a bather watches from his bowery bath, the run of eternal return and rerun. He watches the rock roll for the umpteenth time while, trip-trotting comes Sisyphus, humming, tum-tumming, to himself behind. By the light of the silvery sun, the bath man makes waves, splashing a greeting as the pair rumble-trumble-never-stumble-trip-trot back to their start-spot.
--- Morning.
--- Morning Tantalus. Sisyphus rolls a wave back, slaps rock-Michael’s rocky flank. Rock-Michael, otherwise unresponsive, rolls, rocking, to a customary halt. What’s the best news?
--- Throwaway for the Gold is the word I hear. Tantalus tapped the side of his knowing nose.
--- Oh very good. And how’s the diet? Is it the keto you’re at? Sisyphus, stretching, rolling, hips and hams, shoulder, neck, sholling, nolling.
--- ‘Tis, ah ‘tis. It’s not so bad, thanks.[1] He gestured vaguely at the plump fruit above and watched as it recoiled sluggishly from feeling fingertips. And you? He asked, how are you liking the music biz?
--- Ah now, well it’s only rock ‘n’ roll, said Sisyphus, wagging his arms and legs.
--- As long as you like it.
Oh how they laughed.
Routine round-ended, dryly, daily, from uncountable aeons to uncountable aeons; mullocking chums chuckle and chortle; rock-Michael says nothing, moss-lessly maintaining stony silence. With a soft sigh and a tear in his eye, Tantalus lay back in his bath while Sisyphus and his rock brace themselves for another hill run.
--- Now tell me this and tell me more­­—
Sisyphus raised his index finger.
--- One moment, he said, timelessly, and began heave-ho-ing at the rock again.
Tantalus sloshed water and gazed up at the rich, ripe fruit sweetly swinging in branches overhead. He did not, he decided, like fruit very much. Cupping empty air from bath below, he turned his trudging thoughts to steak and kidney pie with butteryellow mashed potatoes.
--- Now what it is that I can tell you, Tantalus? Said Sisyphus, jogging alongside his returning rock back to the beginning blocks. Tantalus abandoned the examination of his water-wrinkled toes and leaned against the bank of his bath.
--- Well now, it’s like this, he said, crease-beetling brows. It’s the ‘why’ of it that puzzles me, with you.
--- The ‘why’? Says now scowling Sisyphus, The why the what? Stretch, bend back, and sides slide down each one leg, fingers to toes twotoestips, other hand up reach up and stretch skyward, steering sun by stars.
--- The ‘why’ of why you do it, do you see? That’s what I was wondering.
--- What, this you mean? And Sisyphus pressed his hands to the impassive rock-physog, sombre, stony, rough and rocky, bends to his burden once again.
Eternity unfolds, foreknowing, foliating in wide, wild leaves, lief-strewing time revealing leaves along the rock-rolled path, respiring in only only only to out release out last, long last, re-leaving, unfoliating, returning eternally to the first step.
--- I do, said Tantalus, cupped hands squeezed to squirt water, brown studiously, over the side of his bath. I do mean that.
--- Why, said stretching Sisyphus, do I push this rock up that hill? Left leg, right leg, heel to cheek to cheek to heel, then high reach and swan-dive to the toes.
--- The very question, nodded Tantalus. Why do you push that rock up that hill? More to the point, after a forever of pushing that rock up that hill, why do you still push that rock up that hill?
Sisyphus shaking arms and legs out, back twist, neck rolling, shoulder rolling, ready.
--- Ah, now there’s a question, he said and began rock rolling. 
Eternity unwinds, widely wide-eyed, waking, sweeping stretches sighing timelessly, in sweeping time-stretched time-trod unswept tracks towards the top of high hill, inhale, hold, exhale, exit top hill high, returning, trod-time track unswept to start again again.
--- So? asked Tantalus, stretching in Sisyphus time to softly finger unreaching peaches.
--- So what? Said hip-swivelling Sisyphus and seeing Tantalus’ expression. Oh the rock. Oh well, he shrugged shoulder stretching, fate isn’t it? Same as you with the reach-away bath and buffet.
--- Ah, fate. That lad. Flicking water in the direction of bath-wrinkled Tantalus-toes. Punishment, as I recall? Can you remember what for?
--- Not entirely. I’d say the gods were offended about something, however. 
--- They usually are. 
--- That’s true enough. By some more than others, of course.
--- Quite so. But the point of it, that’s what I want to know. What’s the point of any of it?
Answerless, eternity uncoils, curl, twirl and sternabout strides out, rock-rolling ahead apace, roll on and rock, on over round and up and up and up, then slowing, stopping, rolling till-terrupted. Standstill. Then rolling again in return, down to space of start and shrug and stretch and twist and toetouch.
--- The point of it? Well, it’s punishment, as you say.
--- Yes, but what’s the purpose of it as a punishment? What’ll it achieve? What’ll it ever achieve?
--- Nothing, I’d say. I think it’s not meant to achieve anything. That’s sort of the point, it’s pointless. You might say, absurd even.
--- Don’t think I’d say ‘absurd’. ‘Bloody irritating, I’d say that, for sure.
--- That too. But I shouldn’t worry about it.
--- I’m not worried, I’m irritated. I’m irritated at a destiny which consists of doing Sweet Jemima Crankshaft[2] for eternity.
--- I’m not doing Sweet Jemima Whatchamacallit. I’ve got my rock and I’ve got my hill. I’m busy enough, thank you, huffed Sisyphus, unchuffed but unhuffily. Unhuffy hands flat to uphill fate unyielding, Sisyphus and rock-Michael push up and push varder toward tophill headquarters. Tantalus watches, wondering, was it waterflows year?
Unfolding, overflowing, unwaterwinding and uncoiling, eternity relentlessly repeats its reeling rigmarole, along a dry and dusty driven track, muscle-moved upheadquarters hill before back-rolling, baconlike heat-curling and recurling rock-recursively not cursing on itself returning.
--- But what’s the point? Why bother?
--- No alternative, is there.
--- We could just stop.
--- Nope, we could just hide and that won’t change anything in the end. There is no stopping. There’s no appeal. You know that. This the only way to live, if we can find a way to live with it.--- ‘Cept we’re dead. We’re in Tartarus, the underworld, land of the dead.
--- Oh, shut up and drink your bath water.
Above and a-sudden, the sky filled with feather-flapping blackwing blows upon the slap-cracking air, whirling wings soaring and screech-reaching down with long thin talon legs and bone break fingers, clawing cthonically, cawing rookishly. Thus, noisily, cthonically, the Erinyes, garbed in mourning drapery, dropped inelegantly to the ground around the talkers.
Three maids in an Arc slyly six-eyed Sisyphus then turned two and two more Tantalus-wise and twitch a wiry eyebrow each.
--- You Atys again? They croaked, recyclingly. Quit flappin’ yer gums and get on wi’ it! They screech and flap and caw.
With a cheery Sisyphean shrug, accepting not resigned, alive to the abyss without appeal, one turns to rock and rock rolls on to well-worn trail, while Tantalus, ‘teuf teuf’, mutters moodily the words of Wooster-Wodehouse-words, ‘teuf teuf’ and reaches unenthusiastically for ripe retreating peach. Eternity breathes in and, thinking fondly of private priceless pallypeachum, does what it does best.


[1] I’ll give you this one for free, but you’ll have to work the rest out for yourself. The Tantalus being punished in Tartarus was also known as Atys: at  -- is, ah ‘tis. Geddit?

[2] To borrow a phrase from Andy Zaltzman.

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Ereignis Centre for Philosophy and the Arts | ereignis.no/ | ereignis@tankebanen.no

by Torgeir Fjeld

Ereignis: the thought

Ereignis is a way to understand technology and our everyday world, an approach to life, and a distinct philosophy. We begin by unpacking the multiple meanings of the word; we then go on to identify a vision, an obstacle, and a new reality. In the end we ask to what service Ereignis can be put to enable us to become who we are.

1. The meaning of Ereignis

An event is an experience or a happening that fundamentally reconfigures the coordinates of our lives, as a trauma or as a thoroughly exhilarating moment, strictly dividing the “before” from the “after”.

Ereignis is a complex and intriguing word, even in the German. As a noun (an Ereignis) it basically means an unusual or special event, or, simply, something that has happened. However, when we investigate further we realise that there are vast arrays of potential meanings to this term. Synonyms suggested by the dictionary include occasion, interlude, opportunity, experience, happening, thing, and an event. At the etymological root of Ereignis we find that this is an event that is derived from the verb ereignen, designating something that plays itself out, as if by destiny.

One influential interpreter sought to distinguish the prefix er- from the stem eignen. It is when we consider eignen as a cognate of Augen that we get a sense in which ereignen is intimately connected to our vision, to what we see or have in our view. In German, the derived zueignen and aneignen means to acquire and appropriate respectively, and the verb eigen simply means to own. If an event only truly occurs when it is seen or observed, then what has happened can only be determined with by referring to what observers have called it to themselves, their interpretation, or appropriation, of the event.

To er-eignen, then, seems to mean to make something one’s own, in by appropriating it, acquiring it’s key meaning, or giving voice to its sense. This is important, because at the core of the eigen lies eigentlich, designating an event’s underlying cause, or its reality. In other words, what something really is, or what actually happens, can only come out through appropriation, of by distinguishing what it was that we experienced. This event, then, does not only refer to the happening itself, but crucially also to the act of making the event one’s own.

2. Philosophies of Ereignis: Heidegger, Schirmacher, Badiou

Ereignis is an experience and an approach to life. Our technological understanding of the world can bar us from this experience. Opening up for the multiplicity of reality we can rediscover the world as a sacred place.

2.1 Heidegger: nearness

A clearing is the sense we get when we approach a moment of serenity and profound insight.

There is no doubt that it was the game-changing philosophy of Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) that brought the term Ereignis onto the stage of modern thought. In an essay on the German poet Friedrich Hölderlin Heidegger described how it feels to descend from the mountainous Alps, the returning and homecoming, and in this essay he associates this descent with a mystical experience of Ereignis.

Heidegger gave the term Ereignis the task of connecting Being, or the divine, with our lives. To Heidegger Being reveals itself as a light which enables it to become visible to itself. Being, or the divinity, gives, sends, or destines beings, such as ourselves, in an ongoing unfolding of self-awareness. Heidegger thought of this double movement as Being alternately disclosing or refusing itself, or, in a word, as a “clearing-concealing.” Ereignis is a term to describe this sense in which Being is self-giving or self-refusing, or what Heidegger mystically referred to as the “Ereignis of presencing.”

The “It” of Being, or the Divine, is inaccessible to ordinary thinking; however we can come into its nearness through recollective, poetic thought.

To be present, then, or to experience a presencing, is in Heidegger’s terminology to be in the nearness of Being. When Heidegger held that this nearness nevertheless can never be fully present he began from the assertion that the German phrase Es gibt, there is, not merely points to an empty placeholder “Es,” it/there, but that it serves to highlight the giving of the Es, rendering the phrase as literally “It gives.” In so far as the “It” here refers to Being, the giving that is provided by it is its own presence. However, even Heidegger acknowledges that this “It” is inaccessible to ordinary thinking; therefore we should turn to the poets, and particularly the recollective verse of Hölderlin, to be brought into “Its” nearness.

2.2 Schirmacher: metaphysical technique

Now, what is the reason that we find ourselves removed from Being, at a distance from our own existence, in our daily lives? Heidegger was quite clear on this, referring to the reduction of the world from a place of transport and enchantment to an experience where we are oblivious to the things themselves as Gestell. Rather than a world revealing itself as a holy place, and the things within it as radiant, sacred beings, Gestell reduces things to mere resources that can only serve as means to ends. Wolfgang Schirmacher, a philosopher of technology, continues Heidegger’s thought to name this blockage “metaphysical technique,” a complex expression of attempts to dominate life by technical mastery, a technological fix which we often think of as either technological optimist, or utopianism.

Metaphysical technique reduces our world and other people to means to an end, making us oblivious to the things in themselves, seeking instead to dominate them by bringing the exterior world under our complete control.

Governed by an “instrumental prejudice,” Schirmacher writes, the metaphysical technique is an “ingenious expression of a technology of survival” where all objects, everything we encounter, are regarded with suspicion, as “potentially hostile.” This is why the dominant metaphysical technique seeks to bring the entirety of our external world “under control under all circumstances and by all means.” It is this naïve belief in technological supremacy which leads to the present explanation of all our shortcomings as a “lack of technology:” when our world is gradually brought to an end and destroyed with the aid of modern technology the often misunderstood response is to claim that it is not modern technology, or, rather metaphysical technique, that has brought this upon us, but the wrong use of instruments or an insufficient determination of their purpose; in this view our current fix is due to an incorrect application of technology. When metaphysical technique encounters failure its answer is to stubbornly pursue the same path with even more determination, and to explore and exploit further its beaten path of domination by technical knowledge.

Against this Schirmacher holds that the destructive effects of metaphysical technique cannot be defeated on its own ground, i.e. by further pursuing an accumulation of data, or positive knowledge. Technology, or, more precisely metaphysical technology, serves to conceal the world to us, and more knowledge of this kind will not reveal the world anew. In the words of Schirmacher:

If the concealment of technology is not revealed by knowledge, but paradoxically rather strengthened, only ignorance can help. Ignorance does not only mean the absence of knowledge, but indicates the Socratic admission of ignorance, which is to say a knowledge that deprives knowledge of its self-evident right.

What Schirmacher prescribes is the ancient philosophical cure: truth telling, but not as a simple mechanism to verify positive knowledge, but, rather, the Socratic model as an approach to life. Truth of this kind cannot ultimately be found by testing hypotheses but emerges from a technique in which “facts are shown as they are conceived by us.” Against metaphysical technique with its “emptiness artfully filled with an abstract language of evidence and justifications,” truth technique makes the world in its entirety appear in a glimpse, and yet as if eternally.

To overcome metaphysical technique it is required of us to pose an entirely different subject, or I, so that we again can enter into an essential and poetic relation to the world. Overcoming metaphysical technique does not mean that we leave modern technology behind, but that we abandon its use as “denizens of the night-time,” and instead treat machines and practice the sciences behind them as “dwellers of the radiant world of the Ereignis.”

Somewhere along this path we join in with others who have abandoned the cage of metaphysical technique, fellow travellers who seek to give up on exploitation and abuse so as to become guardians, custodians, and nurturers of beings, and, by implication of the Event itself. Our question is how we are going to conceive of Ereignis in this sense.

2.3 Badiou: the new reality

The void is at the core of our existence, an empty space around which our experiences evolve.

One way to approach this seminal Event is suggested by the philosophy of Alain Badiou. Here, the event is a way to understand how reality intrudes into our everyday experience. To Badiou reality is a void grounded in an inconsistent multiplicity, a structure which cannot ultimately be upheld in any social or personal totality. Therefore, countless elements of this reality are excluded from the totality we perceive as our everyday existence, and it is when any of these elements imposes itself upon us, engendering a complete shift in our structure of perception, that we truly can talk about an Event in Badiou’s sense.

To Badiou the event opens up our everyday appearance of normality, enabling a sudden opportunity to rethink our lives as a whole. Since the event can be compared to a ripping open in the fabric of established reality it offers exhilarating possibilities for participants that can nevertheless be experienced as demanding for those who are tasked with assimilating the event. In Badiou’s view a real event generates not only new ways of thinking about the world, but also new truths. What previously didn’t count, Badiou writes, comes to interrupt the continuity of determinism, thereby generating something completely new.

An inconsistent multiplicity lies at the core of reality and is generally hidden and concealed.

An utter reformulation of prevalent prejudices and assumptions cannot be programmed in advance. Rather, Badiou holds that a true event can only be grasped retrospectively and that it cannot have a presence. The event, in effect, suspends the chronology of time, becoming ubiquitous: at the moment of the event it is everywhere and nowhere. In other words, we cannot really realise an event until after it has passed, when we try our best to assimilate it into an opportunity we couldn’t have lived without.

3. Becoming who we are

Ereignis is about approaching the clearing, letting things stand out as they are, and the festive experience, i.e. the sense in which we let the world reveal itself as a sacred place. When we overcome metaphysical technology, an approach to life that only allows the world and others to appear as instruments or means to an end, we can again be brought into the nearness of a Being that gives and reveals itself. By returning to telling the truth we can experience the void of an inconsistent multiplicity that constitutes reality, and out of this void we can begin to rethink our lives and generate an entirely new reality.

It is when we regain this new ground we can begin to realise and become who we truly are. Thus is the experience of Ereignis.

 


Sunday, 6 September 2020

Building a new Personalist Website Using the Ideas and Values of Personalism

by David Jewson

 It must have been a couple of years ago that the committee of the British Personalist Forum decided to change from publishing their journal Appraisal in printed form to a completely on-line journal and I volunteered to try to update their website with a new version capable of on-line publishing.

The first thing I had to decide was whether it was worthwhile. I had come across Personalism quite by accident, having formed a friendship with Richard Allen, the founder of the forum. I spent my working life as a GP and had always known the importance of understanding people and helping them personally. It was important to understand patients as a whole and how their problems fitted into their lives. It was also important to them to have their personal stories understood. In many ways these things were even more important than the things I had learned at medical school. I soon realized that personalist philosophy connected exactly with the way I thought about the world and that it had valuable insights that were both interesting and practically useful. So, for example, John Macmurray’s studies on fellowship and friendship as both an important part of being human, but also as a practical political way forward and an alternative to materialism and the self as the important things in life, suddenly seemed to me quite obvious revelations. I now see personalism as reaching towards a solution to current human problems, something important, something that I emotionally feel to be good and worthwhile pursuing, and something that I want to do with other likeminded people.

I’m also interested in physics and consciousness. It is conventional to start with physics and material things and then try to explain consciousness from that starting point. However, I have found that it is actually much easier to start from consciousness, that is the personal world and how it changes, and explain physics from that starting point. That means I believe that personalism, as in the personal view, also has a great contribution to give to science in forming a coherent view of the world from the mess that physics currently is.

So, the answer was that, ‘yes’, I definitely though it was worthwhile to have a website that would allow people from across the world to express and publish their views on personalism and help develop what I think is both a dynamic and modern philosophy.

The next question was whether I would be able to do it. I am not naturally a completer-finisher, I like having ideas and will spend many happy hours thinking about things, but when it comes to putting them into action, that is completely different. I thought I could at least have a go. The other problem was that I didn’t know much about websites at all. Fortunately, technology came to my aid as building a website online is now extremely easy to do, even for a novice, with a variety of companies all offering good options. I chose Weebly as it had good reviews. Learning Weebly was very easy, which also means that, in the future, anyone could help me with the site, or even take it over completely if necessary. The site allows multiple editors and as many pages as you need, which would allow other personalists to have and edit their own pages on the site, which I hope is something that could happen in the future.

I was still able to use the address of our old website, www.britishpersonalistforum.org.uk, which was important for continuity and was able to add a wealth of material on the original site, a lot of which had been put together by Richard Allen, as well as all previous issues of Appraisal. This means it is already a good reference to use.

Becoming an on-line publisher has great advantages. Costs are minimal so we can now offer free on-line access and free publishing and should be able to maintain our website through donations. This gives access to personalists ideas to anyone who can access the internet completely free of charge. Authors can also publish articles without having to pay the exorbitant fees charged by some other journals. In this way, friends in the personalist community can share their ideas as friends; ideas freely given and freely received with the idea of helping each other, rather than making a profit.

I was able to take inspiration for the site design from other on-line journals, while trying to keep a simple consistent theme and make the website easy to use and had some valuable initial advice from Simon Smith. The site also has several advantages over a printed copy. Multimedia such as sound, video and colour pictures are easily added, so I have, for example, been able to add some video clips of Polanyi. All the articles on the site should be searchable from within the site but also using Google or other search engines. Philosophers trying to find out about personalism should be easily able to find our site from anywhere in the world and, by applying Google Translate, be able to translate it into any language. They should also be easily able to find authors and articles or even parts of articles by a standard google search.

It’s been an interesting time and there’s been a lot to learn. For example, if you want people to be able to find your site when they do an on-line search then you need to have your site ‘search engine optimized’ which means trying to find out the likely search phrases people will use. So, will they search for personalist philosophy or the philosophy of personalism or British personalists or British personalism or something else entirely? There have also been technical issues such as how to set up a store and on-line payments, but these have been steadily overcome. An option to be able to use PayPal has recently been added, for example.

Entirely against my own expectations, the web site is now up and running and we have posted the first on-line issue of Appraisal. We want to be an academic journal with the highest standards. We have already signed up several supporters and have had some generous donations. We now need some really good articles for our next Appraisal issue, so we need to let everyone know that we are up and running!

With lots of interesting ideas to explore and then thinking how they might apply to our ever-changing world; I think the journal and the site have a great future.

https://www.britishpersonalistforum.org.uk/

Sunday, 30 August 2020

James Joyce: The Curve of an Emotion

 

The features of infancy are not commonly reproduced in the adolescent portrait for, 

                                                                                                so capricious

                                                                                                        are we,

                                                                                                            that we 

                                                                                                            cannot

                                                                                           or

                                                                                  will not

                                                                        conceive

                                                             the past

                                                    in any other than 

                                                         its iron

                                         memorial

            aspect.

        Yet the past assuredly 

                                                                         implies a fluid 

                                                                      succession 

                                                                           of 

                                                             presents, 

                                               the development

                                                                    of 

                                                                    an

                                                                    entity 

                                                                            of 

                                                                                which 

                                                                                               our 

                                                                                            actual present 

                                                                                                        is a phase 

                                                                                                                       only. 

                                                                                    Our world, 

                                                                                                        again, 

                                                                                                                recognises its 

                                                                                                                            acquaintance

                                                                                                                                        chiefly by the 

                                                                                                                                               characters 

                                                                                                                                                               of 

                                                                                                                                                      beard

                                                                                                                                                 and

                                                                                                                                   inches

                                                                                                                  and is,

                                                                                                                 for the most part,

                                                                                        estranged

                                                                                from those of its 

                                                                                                members 

                                                                                                    who seek 

                                                                                                through 

                                                                                        some 

                                                                                                                       art, 

                                                                                                               by 

                                    some 

                process 

                                                                           of the 

                                                               mind

                                                     as yet

                               untabulated, 

                                           to 

                                liberate 

                             from the 

           personalised lumps 

                                        of 

                                 matter 

                          that which is 

                                            their 

                                             individual 

                                                        rhythm,

                                                                        the first 

            or 

                       formal 

                                                relation 

                                                                            of their 

                                                                                                        parts. 

But for such            

    as        

these

a

portrait    

is not            

an                         

identificative                                

paper                                     

but                                           

rather                                            

                                                           the

                                        curve 

                                            of

                                                an 

                                                                   e

                                                                            m

                                                                                o

                                                                               t

                                                                        i

                                                                    o

                                                                    n

                                                                     .

From the essay ‘A Portrait of the Artist’ in 
James Joyce Poems and Shorter Writings
Eds. Richard Ellmann, 
A. Walton Litz, 
and John Whittier-Ferguson. 
(London: Faber and Faber, 1991) 211 
(Typography added, obviously).