When I consider every thing that grows Holds in perfection but a little moment, That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows Whereon the stars in secret influence comment; When I perceive that men as plants increase, Cheered and checked even by the selfsame sky, Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease, And wear their brave state out of memory: Then the conceit of this inconstant stay Sets you most rich in youth before my sight, Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay To change your day of youth to sullied night, And all in war with Time for love of you, As he takes from you, I ingraft you new.
Kelley Ross responds to a correspondent on Isaiah Berlin’s value pluralism, while discussing John Gray as well:
‘Now, I do not regard Berlin’s value pluralism as objectionable or even as wrong, except to the extend that it is irrelevant to the MORAL issue and so proves nothing for or against liberalism. Liberalism will indeed recommend itself if one wishes to have a regime that will respect, within limits, a value pluralism. I have no doubt that respecting a considerable value pluralism in society is a good thing and that a nomocratic regime that, mostly, leaves people alone is morally superior to a teleocratic regime that specifies and engineers the kinds of values that people should have. However, the project of showing that such a regime IS a good thing and IS morally superior is precisely the kind of thing that Gray decided was a failure.’
“As Strauss understood it, the principle of liberal democracy is the natural freedom and equality of all human beings, and the bond of liberal society is a universal morality that links human beings regardless of religion. Liberalism understands religion to be a primary source of divisiveness in society, but it also regards liberty of religious worship to be a fundamental expression of the autonomy of the individual. To safeguard religion and to safeguard society from conflicts over religion, liberalism pushes religion to the private sphere where it is protected by law. The liberal state also strictly prohibits public laws that discriminate on the basis of religion. What the liberal state cannot do without ceasing to be liberal is to use the law to root out and entirely eliminate discrimination, religious and otherwise, on the part of private individuals and groups.”
‘We may sum this up by saying that the more the style of what used to be called politics becomes theorized, the more political problems come to be reintrepreted as managerial. Working out the least oppressive laws under which different and sometimes conflicting groups may live peaceably together is being replaced by manipulation and management of the attitudes different groups take towards each other, with the hope that this will ultimately bring harmony. In other words, in the new form of society, human beings are becoming the matter which is to be shaped according to the latest moral ideas.’
Minogue, Kenneth. Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. (Pg 111).
‘By the time “Paralyzed: 50 Floors” earned wide release, Bellagamba’s unique blend of post-war Italian neorealism, sci-fi surrealism, and giallo was no longer finding an audience.
Bellagamba died penniless in his native Abruzzo in 1999, interred within a bowl of Diavolicchio (red chili) inside the stomach of a white dove. ‘
Still from the set of “Paralyzed: 50 floors:’. Antonio Stagglione (sp) plays the protagonist as child and future child within the then-longest-recorded Italian sci-fi action dream sequence.
‘We look inside the shards of the past to discover a future that lies stranded in the present.‘
-Giacomo Bellagamba. R.I.P.
***Addendum: Hey, I’d just like to help prepare us all for a world with the coming AI assistive technology. Easily manipulable images and standardized, formalized text are happening right now. Keep your bullshit detectors finely-tuned.
Something of how the homing bee at dusk Seems to inquire, perplexed, how there can be No flowers here, not even withered stalks of flowers, Conjures a garden where no garden is And trellises too frail almost to bear The memory of a rose, much less a rose. Great oaks more monumentally great oaks now Than ever when the living rose was new Cast shade that is the more completely shade Upon a house of broken windows merely And empty nests up under broken eaves No damask any more prevents the moon, But it unravels, peeling from a wall, Red roses within roses within roses.
‘They had reached the bus stop. There was no bus in sight and Julian, his hands still jammed in his pockets and his head thrust forward, scowled down the empty street. The frustration of having to wait on the bus as well as ride on it began to creep up his neck like a hot hand. The presence of his mother was borne in upon him as she gave a pained sigh. He looked at her bleakly. She was holding herself very erect under the preposterous hat, wearing it like a banner of her imaginary dignity. There was in him an evil urge to break her spirit. He suddenly unloosened his tie and pulled it off and put it in his pocket’
Nelson, composing his expression under the shadow of his hat brim, watched him with a mixture of fatigue and suspicion, but as the train glided past them and disappeared like a frightened serpent into the woods, even his face lightened and he muttered, “I’m glad I’ve went once, but I’ll never go back again!”
A good work of art can free your from the shackles of habitual perception. It can make you alive anew to the strangeness of life, drawing you onwards through beauty, symmetry, and a bit of wonder. Ars celare artem.
I believe the rush to contemporize all one’s experience and emotions into narrow ideological and political channels; to forego talent and skill for concept and blurb is a shame.
‘Ms. Hockley explained that these choices weren’t due to a fascination with all things “hot, young, new,” but rather grew out of traveling around the country and seeing how many artists were facing “an incredible amount of pressure coming from all sides,” including the burden of debt from M.F.A. programs, the collapse of smaller galleries that might help launch their careers and the difficulty of finding and keeping affordable studio space.’
And on one artist in particular:
‘For the biennial, Mr. Fernandes, a former ballet dancer who is based in Chicago, will present a new version of a piece titled “The Master and Form,” which consists of archaic-looking wooden scaffolding and devices that allow performers to hold the five basic ballet positions for long periods of time. “For me it is a social-political space, a piece that questions the agency of the body, the agency of the dancer and our labor,” said Mr. Fernandes.’
‘As America went abstract, the museum also never lost its taste for the real, a fact reflected in the strengths and weaknesses of its permanent collection now on display. This explains its abundance of American Scene hokum and WPA art as well as the artists who have defined the museum’s self-image, in particular Edward Hopper.
But it also explains its appetite for art that is strident, narrow, and of the moment, demonstrating a taste that has only become more bitter with age.’
‘For many years, the French writer Guy de Maupassant insisted on eating lunch every day at the restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. The reason, he explained, was simple: the restaurant offered the only spot in Paris where he could look out and not have to see the Eiffel Tower.’
How about popular culture from 30 years ago? Now, this is important. This blog is still looking for 80’s awesome badness, for nothing can predict the cultural trends of today like the lyrics of ‘Angel Of The City,’ the theme from Sylvester Stallone’s 1986 ‘Cobra.’
Of course, there are other ways to think about freedom, as the entry suggests:
‘The two sides identified by Berlin disagree over which of two different concepts best deserves the name of ‘liberty’. Does this fact not denote the presence of some more basic agreementbetween the two sides? How, after all, could they see their disagreement as one about the definition of liberty if they did not think of themselves as in some sense talking about the same thing? In an influential article, the American legal philosopher Gerald MacCallum (1967) put forward the following answer: there is in fact only one basic concept of freedom, on which both sides in the debate converge. What the so-called negative and positive theorists disagree about is how this single concept of freedom should be interpreted. Indeed, in MacCallum’s view, there are a great many different possible interpretations of freedom, and it is only Berlin’s artificial dichotomy that has led us to think in terms of there being two.’
So perhaps, as a product of his times, Berlin needed reasons to explain how the Soviets could justify taking away individual liberties in the name of abstract freedom.
‘MacCallum defines the basic concept of freedom — the concept on which everyone agrees — as follows: a subject, or agent, is free from certain constraints, or preventing conditions, to do or become certain things. Freedom is therefore a triadic relation — that is, a relation between three things: an agent, certain preventing conditions, and certain doings or becomings of the agent. Any statement about freedom or unfreedom can be translated into a statement of the above form by specifying what is free or unfree, from what it is free or unfree, and what it is free or unfree to do or become. Any claim about the presence or absence of freedom in a given situation will therefore make certain assumptions about what counts as an agent, what counts as a constraint or limitation on freedom, and what counts as a purpose that the agent can be described as either free or unfree to carry out.’
Any thoughts and comments are welcome. From the last paragraph:
‘What perhaps remains of the distinction is a rough categorization of the various interpretations of freedom that serves to indicate their degree of fit with the classical liberal tradition. There is indeed a certain family resemblance between the conceptions that are normally seen as falling on one or the other side of Berlin’s divide, and one of the decisive factors in determining this family resemblance is the theorist’s degree of concern with the notion of the self. Those on the ‘positive’ side see questions about the nature and sources of a person’s beliefs, desires and values as relevant in determining that person’s freedom, whereas those on the ‘negative’ side, being more faithful to the classical liberal tradition, tend to consider the raising of such questions as in some way indicating a propensity to violate the agent’s dignity or integrity. One side takes a positive interest in the agent’s beliefs, desires and values, while the other recommends that we avoid doing so.’
I almost always recommend avoiding doing so in the pursuit of liberty.