Results for 2018-04

Americans and their "ah-due"

24.4.2018 kl. 15:27 - Sveinbjörn Þórðarson

What is it with Americans and their butchery of basic English semantics and pronunciation?

It's "I couldn't care less", not "I could care less." Think about it logically for a second or two and you'll find that the latter makes no sense at all.

Also, don't say "Without further a-due". It's "ado", people. Ah-doo, not a-due! Ever seen that Shakespeare play?

And while we're on the subject:

Coup de grâce is pronounced "Coo-duh-grass", not "Coo-duh-grah." French may sometimes be confusing in terms of pronunciation, but -ce endings are never silent. Vide e.g. fem. name Alice.

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Brilliant alliteration

20.4.2018 kl. 11:05 - Sveinbjörn Þórðarson

Alliteration, such an important technique in Icelandic poetry, is strangely absent in most English verse. All the more respect to Nick Cave for his brilliant and beautiful alliteration in the final verse of the Song of Joy:

Outside the vultures wheel,
the wolves howl, the serpents hiss.
And to extend this small favour, friend,
would be the sum of earthly bliss.


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Horrible man, sublime music

18.4.2018 kl. 12:03 - Sveinbjörn Þórðarson

Wagner may have been a horrible human being, but his music is truly sublime.

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A cloud of willful unknowing

16.4.2018 kl. 13:02 - Sveinbjörn Þórðarson

Mark Lilla's great analysis of our current politico-philosophical malaise (from The Reckless Mind):

One of the less remarked consequences of the cold war's end has been the vacuum of understanding it left behind. If nothing else, the old ideologies focused the mind. With lineages that could be traced back two centuries, they presented clear, opposing portrayals of political reality, however distorted, and programs for acting within it. And they were not arbitrary constructs. They had roots in philosophical and religious traditions with radically different understandings of human nature and history that ran back much further. When the modern ideologies were jettisoned, so was a living connection with those traditions.

Now we are free of the old illusions. So one would expect to find our situation easier to understand and grapple with. In fact, just the opposite seems true. Never since the end of World War II, and perhaps since the Russian Revolution, has political thinking in the West seemed so shallow, so clueless. We all sense that ominous changes are taking place in Western societies, and in other societies whose destinies will very much shape our own. Yet we lack adequate concepts and even vocabulary for describing the world we now find ourselves in. More worrisome still, we lack awareness that we lack them. A cloud of willful unknowing seems to have settled on our intellectual life.

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Enlightenment and religion at the roots of tyranny

16.4.2018 kl. 12:56 - Sveinbjörn Þórðarson

Which of these two stories will our historian choose to tell? If he is like most historians that may well depend on which intellectual and political aspects of modern tyranny he feels deserve our attention. If he is trying to understand exclusively the brutality of Soviet "planning," the Nazis' chillingly efficient program to exterminate the Jews, the methodical self-destruction of Cambodia, the programs of ideological indoctrination, the paranoid webs of informers and secret police--if he wants to explain how these tyrannical practices were conceived and defended, he might be tempted to blame a heartless intellectual rationalism that crushed all in its path. If, on the other hand, he is struck by the role in modern tyranny played by the idolization of blood and soil, the hysterical obsession with racial categories, the glorification of reviolutionary violence as a purifying force, the cults of personality, and the orgiastic mass rallies, he will be tempted to say that reason collapsed before irrational passions that had migrated from religion to politics. And if our historian is more ambitious still, and wants to explain both classes of phenomena? At that point he will have to abandon the history of ideas.

Mark Lilla, "The Reckless Mind"

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Heidegger the Fox

12.4.2018 kl. 13:22 - Sveinbjörn Þórðarson

Hannah Arendt's scathing takedown of her erstwhile mentor and lover, Old Nazi Heidegger:

Once upon a time there was a fox who was so lacking in slyness that he not only kept getting caught in traps but couldn’t even tell the difference between a trap and a non-trap. … After he had spent his entire youth prowling around the traps of people … this fox decided to withdraw from the fox world altogether and to set about making himself a burrow. In his shocking ignorance of the difference between traps and non-traps, despite his incredibly extensive experience with traps, he hit on an idea completely new and unheard of among foxes: He built a trap as his burrow. He set himself inside it, passed it off as a normal burrow (not out of cunning, but because he had always thought others’ traps were their burrows). … Alas, no one would go into his trap, because he was sitting inside it himself. And so it occurred to our fox to decorate his trap beautifully and to hang up unequivocal signs everywhere on it that quite clearly said: “Come here, everyone; this is a trap, the most beautiful trap in the world.” From this point on … many came. Everyone except our fox could, of course, step out of it again. It was cut, literally, to his own measurement. But the fox who lived in the trap said proudly: “So many are visiting me in my trap that I have become the best of all foxes.” And there is some truth in that, too: Nobody knows the nature of traps better than one who sits in a trap his whole life long.

Subtle and devastating, but not nearly as much fun as Schopenhauer on Hegel.

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One-dimensional, superficial and schmaltzy

5.4.2018 kl. 15:32 - Sveinbjörn Þórðarson

Although I must confess a certain nostalgic fondness for the Indiana Jones films, I generally hate Spielberg as a film-maker. One-dimensional, superficial, schmaltzy. This hilarious review tears apart his latest debacle.

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