I am legion

The self is unique, the self is one. Consciousness is unitary and indivisible, that's a textbook statement. And yet, not everyone has accepted it. In the 20th century, the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard and Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa challenged the notion that the writer and the authorial self are indivisible entities. Through 'indirect communication', Kierkegaard... Continue Reading →

A different kind of hero

The ancient world had only one type of hero, the secular hero, although nobody in the ancient Mediterranean referred to their heroes as secular. Before the advent of Christianity, there had been no separation, in theory or in practice, between the secular and the religious. In Homer, gods and heroes fought side by side, and... Continue Reading →

An unwelcome guest

Today I take a quick detour from the usual track of this blog. I almost never comment on my private life here, but today I'll make an exception. Last week I tested positive for Covid. I lost my sense of taste and smell but I haven't registered any other symptoms. Not much cause for moaning,... Continue Reading →

The age of storification

We want to hear your story. Everything is a narrative. Humans are the only storytelling species. If you want to shape the culture, you need to shape the narrative. Every one has a a voice and a story to tell. These statements are all taken from some of the books I've recently read. It appears... Continue Reading →

The Law of Godwin’s Law

Have you noticed that every time the names Hitler or Nazi are used as analogies for contemporary issues, someone reporting on the analogy will invariably also quote the so-called Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies with an explanation of what it is, namely that the longer an online conversation continues, the likelihood of the words Hitler... Continue Reading →

I read you loud and clear

I went to a photography exhibition last weekend, and on display were items from Irving Penn's 1951 iconic Small Trades series, a collection of portraits of workers with the clothes and tools of their trades. I was struck by how some of the trades portrayed there no longer exist. The iceman is gone, and so... Continue Reading →

The Homer helix

The Iliad and the Odyssey are many things. They are stories of dramatic heroism and petty cowardice, collaboration and competition, inevitable conflict and unattainable peace, duty, love, friendship, worship, play and stubborness. But most of all, the Illiad and the Odyssey are the stories of a civilisation caught between two fundamental, and opposing, human modes:... Continue Reading →

Crossing words and swords

Reputation has always mattered and status has always been important. Claiming status, saving face, stepping up that ladder so the others are forced to climb down is a game we all play. Off and on the page. The great merit of writing and literature is that the game played on the page doesn't lead to... Continue Reading →

Adopt a philosopher

There are bestselling authors and there are popular intellectuals, household names, influencers and other voguish individuals. Names that everyone talks about, faces that everybody knows. Even those who don't know wouldn't admit not to know. Names that might come and go, but as they come, and stay for a while, they shape the conversation, and,... Continue Reading →

A series of footnotes

Glosses and footnotes galore, a manuscript page from the 11th century showing glosses on the Satires by the ancient Roman poet Juvenal. The main text of the poem seems submerged in glosses and commentaries. (St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 871) It has been said that all philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato. The... Continue Reading →

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