Rahil Patel

All posts by Rahil

In Search of a Past Time

23 May 2016 by Rahil

[todo: this is a super drafty mess of wanderings exported straight from my phone. It shouldn't have been published. I'm probably not going to touch this again though. But at least it was fun, and therefore maybe fun for others to wander along too. History is so, uh, unreal.]

Romantic Periods continued: [todo: need to create anchor]
Let's call them ideal [time] periods. Ideal being, an ideal in my mind at least.

Continuing the search for a certain period of time where people created the greatest ethical and political philosophies. A time where people focused on these things. A time where people cared for one another.

notes

general time periods:
[Prehistory, ]Archaic periods (Bronze Age), Classical periods (Iron Age), Age of Empires (Iron Age)[, Middle Ages]

Greco-Roman:
Archaic Greece, Classical Greece, Hellenistic Greece, Roman Empire, Holy Roman Empire
|
Seven Sages and Pre-Socratics (Heraclitus, Parmenides), atheism/ethical treatises/complex epistemology, early Stoicism, late (more humane) Stoicism, Christianity wins

India:
Vedic Period, Mahajanapadas, Maurya Empire
|
Brahmin sages, many religions?, [Indian] Buddhism/Jainism wins?

China:
Zhou Dynasty, Warring States (end of Zhou), Imperial China (Qin, Han, etc. Dynasties?)
|
Mandate of Heaven?, every Chinese religion/philosophy, Confucius wins

Japan:
Yayoi, {Kofun, Asuka (most societal changes), Nara}, Heian (golden age and empire)
|
Shinto {Shinto, Bhuddism introduced, both?}, all religions from China, a mix wins?

in general:
archaic, classical, empire
non-sense cosmology, creation of ethical treatises, choice of one ethical treatise (the most humane one, exception: Roman, until it becomes Holy Roman)

geographical (reality) progression:
feudalism/agriculture, urbanization (state/city governor/tyrant), empire (Emporer and their many generals/governors, building of huge trade routes)
– (end of notes)

content

As societies urbanized, they needed to figure out as social/political solution, so it came out of necessity of the sudden growing dense areas. That’s the most common sense reason. For politics, and ethics?

Then, it seems, one ethical system bested the others, unifying the cities with benevolence and harmony, resulting in a “peaceful” (no war, but still highly unequal society) golden age, until it became an empire (the most unequal).

But this doesn’t say anything about what’s most important: capital and capitalism in the cities: the motivation of work. The slaves that powered the classical ages and empires.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt:_The_First_5000_Years

He argues that credit systems originally developed as means of account long before the advent of coinage, which appeared around 600 BC. Credit can still be seen operating in non-monetary economies. Barter, on the other hand, seems primarily to have been used for limited exchanges between different societies that had infrequent contact and often were in a context of ritualized warfare.

Graeber suggests that economic life originally related to social currencies. These were closely related to routine non-market interactions within a community. This created an “everyday communism” based on mutual expectations and responsibilities among individuals. This type of economy is contrasted with exchange based on formal equality and reciprocity (but not necessarily leading to market relations) and hierarchy. The hierarchies in turn tended to institutionalize inequalities in customs and castes. – Wikipedia, "Debt: The First 5000 Years"

  • in line with first to second stage Marxist social development

…The great Axial Age civilizations (800–200 BC) began to use coins to quantify the economic values of portions of what Graeber calls “human economies”. Graeber says these civilizations held a radically different conception of debt and social relations. These were based on the radical incalculability of human life and the constant creation and recreation of social bonds through gifts, marriages, and general sociability. The author postulates the growth of a “military–coinage–slave complex” around this time. These were enforced by mercenary armies that looted cities and cut human beings from their social context to work as slaves in Greece, Rome, and elsewhere. The extreme violence of the period marked by the rise of great empires in China, India, and the Mediterranean was, in this way, connected with the advent of large-scale slavery and the use of coins to pay soldiers. This was combined with obligations to pay taxes in currency: The obligation to pay taxes with money required people to engage in monetary transactions, often with very disadvantageous terms of trade. This typically increased debt and slavery.

  • and so capitalism was introduced in the classical age, institutionalized, and at its apex during the empire age. Sounds like Dubai.

Surely after that one must desire some purer ethical treatises to get out of that extreme form of capitalism and violence.

Argh, even in 600BC, one can’t escape capitalism! I’ve spent so much time getting away from it, and even traveling through time, I must go back at least 2600 years. How can one ever escape capitalism? It’s spatially and temporally impossible!

So, anyway, it’s pretty difficult to tell how much capital affected people’s action as opposed to ethics of their philosophies. I’m guessing Confucius China was far less motivated by capital (“profit”) than the Europeans. Bhuddist India too. The influence of philosophies still show in both countries’ contemporary cultures. So, after all, it was the Europeans that were most ruthless, most extreme, the Roman Empire being the apex of ruthlessness, killing for coins, just to make a living.

Anyway, what was I looking for? A certain flourishing period of time? Im not sure. Maybe China’s Han Dynasty is best? They don’t seem to have had a caste system, and likely were more peaceful than Romans, and I read that they were prolific inventors.

Or was I looking for a prolific time where people thought about ways a society can live? I guess there aren’t any other times: around 600BC most of the civilizations created coins. Thus, one must look to other civilizations, precisely at the time when a society begins to urbanize, and better before the invention of coinage

Hmm, I wonder about the geographic view. If urbanization caused people to think of ways to socially organize, was coinage the real solution? (As opposed to ethical precepts.) Then, did other civilizations simply copy that idea (maybe for trade?)? Then, the newly founded social system, capitalism, caused some kind of psychological madness to the point of slave-driving an empire and conquering others (Hi America!)? Then, as a reaction to that madness, people reverted to a morally better religion/ethical precepts?

This shit is crazy. I’m done with history!

Actually, I think was just looking for a period of time where people thought about others, focused on politics and ethics as opposed to [instituinalized, capitalistic] work, not only in the sense of creatively thinking about ways a society can live and govern itself, rather, more simply, just more focused on each other, being aware of one another. [Perhaps I was seeking] The most socially aware period of time [in the development of a society]. An empire, by the definition, is a stage of society that is least socially aware. Perhaps it was indeed before coins were introduced, that people focused on other people, and not coins, or useless wage labour.

Well, I first began to read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius because I wanted to become less aware of social problems. I was hyper-aware, and it was damaging my life. By reading Stoic philosophy, I thought I could be less aware, and it worked a bit. It’s not too bad. What’s bad is knowing that a Roman Emporer did not care for social problems. He wasn’t just unaware, he was decidedly unaware. Like Epictetus, he didn’t let external things bother him, and suggests others shouldn’t. To use one’s mind, free will, to do what they want, but not to grind against society, instead, flow with it naturally. What makes it difficult to digest is that it’s the Roman Empire. He spent much time on the field, battling. Was war simply determinism, fate for him? Stoicism makes sense for the time, to be calm and not be afraid of dying, just as Zen Buddhism made sense, but in contemporary society, it’s a terrible set of ethics.

Then I thought the Second Sophistic was great. Sophists, the artist-educator-senator-public-orating-philosophers, were free, independent [of institutions], debating in the public, talking to Emporers without beauracracy, creating their own schools; a huge part of society. Yet, again, thinking of the history of the Roman Empire, it’s difficult to admire them too. Did they try to socially organize against problems? I guess I’ll know when I read some of Cicero’s speeches.

highlights and notes from Wikipedia

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_world:

Beginning in the 8th century BCE, the so-called “Axial Age” saw a set of transformative religious and philosophical ideas develop, mostly independently, in many different locations. During the 6th century BCE, Chinese Confucianism,[53][54] Indian Buddhism and Jainism, and Jewish Monotheism all developed. (Karl Jaspers’ Axial Age theory also includes Persian Zoroastrianism on this list, but other scholars dispute Jaspers’ timeline for Zoroastrianism.) In the 5th century BCE Socrates and Plato made significant advances in the development of Ancient Greek philosophy.

In the east, three schools of thought were to dominate Chinese thinking until the modern day. These were Taoism,[55] Legalism[56] and Confucianism.[57] The Confucian tradition, which would attain dominance, looked for political morality not to the force of law but to the power and example of tradition. Confucianism would later spread into the Korean peninsula and toward Japan.

From around 550 BCE, many independent kingdoms and republics known as the Mahajanapadas were established across the subcontinent.

Regional Empires (Age of Empires):
The millennium from 500 BCE to 500 CE saw a series of empires of unprecedented size develop. Well-trained professional armies, unifying ideologies, and advanced bureaucracies created the possibility for emperors to rule over large domains, whose populations could attain numbers upwards of tens of millions of subjects. The great empires depended on military annexation of territory and on the formation of defended settlements to become agricultural centres.[65] The relative peace that the empires brought encouraged international trade, most notably the massive trade routes in the Mediterranean, the maritime trade web in the Indian Ocean, and the Silk Road. In southern Europe, the Greeks (and later the Romans), in an era known as “Classical Antiquity,” established cultures whose practices, laws, and customs are considered the foundation of contemporary western civilization.

  • perhaps ones must look at these empires for some real philosophy (link to second sophists, real philosophy). In the axial age people scrambled and created social structures, such as ethical treatises, to maintain stability (or in the negative: hagemony). In the empires age, people maintained society by the forcing capitalism culture upon others. Hmmm.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maurya_Empire:

Under Chandragupta and his successors, internal and external trade, agriculture and economic activities, all thrived and expanded across India thanks to the creation of a single and efficient system of finance, administration, and security.

  • empire-wide social systems!

After the Kalinga War, the Empire experienced nearly half a century of peace and security under Ashoka. Mauryan India also enjoyed an era of social harmony, religious transformation, and expansion of the sciences and of knowledge. Chandragupta Maurya’s embrace of Jainism increased social and religious renewal and reform across his society, while Ashoka’s embrace of Buddhism has been said to have been the foundation of the reign of social and political peace and non-violence across all of India. Ashoka sponsored the spreading of Buddhist ideals into Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, West Asia[9] and Mediterranean Europe.[3]

  • Jainism is to India as Confucius is to China, a good ethical system promoting harmony

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edicts_of_Ashoka:

These inscriptions proclaim Ashoka’s adherence to the Buddhist philosophy which, as in Hinduism is called dharma, “Law”. The inscriptions show his efforts to develop the Buddhist dharma throughout his kingdom. Although Buddhism and the Gautama Buddha are mentioned, the edicts focus on social and moral precepts rather than specific religious practices or the philosophical dimension of Buddhism.

"Ten years (of reign) having been completed, King Piodasses (one of the titles of Ashoka: Piyadassi or Priyadarsi, “He who is the beloved of the Gods and who regards everyone amiably”) made known (the doctrine of)
Piety (Greek:εὐσέβεια, Eusebeia) to men; and from this moment he has made men more pious, and everything thrives throughout the whole world. And the king abstains from (killing) living beings, and other men and those who (are) huntsmen and fishermen of the king have desisted
from hunting. And if some (were) intemperate, they
have ceased from their intemperance as was in their power; and obedient to their father and mother and to the elders, in opposition to the past also in the future, by so acting on every occasion, they will live betterand more happily." (Trans. by G. P. Carratelli[4])

  • animal ethics in 200b.c.

Ashoka showed great concern for fairness in the exercise of justice, caution and tolerance in the application of sentences, and regularly pardoned prisoners.

When Ashoka embraced Buddhism in the latter part of his reign, he brought about significant changes in his style of governance, which included providing protection to fauna, and even relinquished the royal hunt. He was perhaps the first ruler in history to advocate conservation measures for wildlife.

However, the edicts of Ashoka reflect more the desire of rulers than actual events; the mention of a 100 ‘panas’ (coins) fine for poaching deer in royal hunting preserves shows that rule-breakers did exist. The legal restrictions conflicted with the practices then freely exercised by the common people in hunting, felling, fishing and setting fires in forests.

  • yeah, but it’s the creation of culture that mattered, not the enforcement of law

Roadside facilities
Along roads I have had banyan trees planted so that they can give shade to animals and men, and I have had mango groves planted. At intervals of eight krosas, I have had wells dug, rest-houses built, and in various places, I have had watering-places made for the use of animals and men. But these are but minor achievements. Such things to make the people happy have been done by former kings. I have done these things for this purpose, that the people might practice the Dhamma. Pilar Edict Nb7 (S. Dhammika)}}

  • urban planning! Making life comfortable.

— (another sitting?)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Japan:

Between the third century and the eighth century, Japan's many kingdoms and tribes gradually came to be unified under a centralized government, nominally controlled by the Emperor. The imperial dynasty established at this time continues to reign over Japan to this day.

  • there's the period, but holy shit, imperial up to this day!?

In 794, a new imperial capital was established at Heian-kyō (modern Kyoto), marking the beginning of the Heian period, which lasted until 1185. The Heian period is considered a golden age of classical Japanese culture. Japanese religious life from this time and onwards was a mix of Buddhism, and native religious practices known as Shinto.

  • and there's the romantic period of urbanization, religion, ethics of normative society, ethics of recluses, etc.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heian_period

The Heian period (平安時代 Heian jidai?) is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185.[1] The period is named after the capital city of Heian-kyō, or modern Kyōto. It is the period in Japanese history when Buddhism, Taoism and other Chinese influences were at their height. The Heian period is also considered the peak of the Japanese imperial court and noted for its art, especially poetry and literature.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heian_literature,
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recluse_literature:

The origins of the literary style known as Recluse Literature has roots in the Taoist movement in China, said to date back to the 3rd or 4th century BCE. Like the recluses of Japan, Taoist philosophers such as Zhuangzi and Laozi advocated a casting off of the bonds of society and government, and instead living a life free of obligations and the pressures of urban life. The first Japanese recluse is considered to be Saigyō Hōshi, who worked as a guard to retired Emperor Toba until the age of 22, at which time for reasons unknown he took the vows of a monk and proceeded to live alone for long periods of time. Following the relocation of the capital from Heian (present day Kyoto) to Kamakura, located 50 km south-south-west of Tokyo, many court aristocrats, due mainly to the influence of Jōdo shū or Pure Land Buddhism, became disillusioned with the standards and practices of government and every day life, and instead chose to live on the outskirts of civilization in isolation. The practice of taking the tonsure (becoming a monk) after life in the Imperial court was not entirely new to Japan, but the concept of doing so and completely retreating from secular life into nature, as opposed to the many Buddhist monasteries around the capital, was considered a novel alternative to these newly disillusioned intellectuals. From this isolation, it was common practice for the recluse to focus his efforts on self-reflection, expressed through the arts such as poetry or the writing of zuihitsu-styled essays.

  • transcendentalism/Daoism in Japan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zuihitsu:

Zuihitsu (随筆?) is a genre of Japanese literature consisting of loosely connected personal essays and fragmented ideas that typically respond to the author's surroundings.

  • personal essays of reality!

The genre next gained momentum as a respectable form of writing several centuries later in the Kamakura Period. With the depotentiation of the Heian Court and the relocation of the capital to Kamakura, near modern-day Tokyo, many intellectuals, amidst social chaos, grew disillusioned and chose to live in asceticism – a trend that also reflected the growing importance of Pure Land Buddhism. Writing from isolation, these authors reflected on the degeneracy of their contemporaries, whom they considered philistines, in comparison to themselves, as well as general consideration of the impermanence of the material world. Major works from this period include Kamo no Chōmei's Hōjōki and Yoshida Kenkō’s Tsurezuregusa.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamakura_period:
– warring, samurai, feudalism, middle ages, zen as reaction, kind of like roman times / stoicism?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edo_period:

The Edo period (江戸時代 Edo jidai?) or Tokugawa period (徳川時代 Tokugawa jidai?) is the period between 1603 and 1868 in the history of Japan, when Japanese society was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate and the country's 300 regional daimyo. The period was characterized by economic growth, strict social order, isolationist foreign policies, a stable population, popular enjoyment of arts and culture, recycling of materials, and sustainable forest management. It was a sustainable and self-sufficient society which was based on the principles of complete utilization of finite resources.

  • holy moly, why wasn't this in my travel guide

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_literature
– ah, I forget how great Wikipedia is
– boom, 5th and 4th centuries BC, all of the religions
– also lol at Aesop's Fables beating most religions
– also holy shit at the Classical Greeks writing things way beyond contemporary intelligence while the rest of the world was writing cosmological tales and ethics, except the Chinese, they kept it real, real boring

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Study_of_History
– lolol, let's not go that route!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16057286-the-ellen-meiksins-wood-reader
– this lady seems to be investigating the period capitalism rises in society for the West, in English farms, apparently, probably after simply noticing when several political theorists came about. There's a section on precapitalist societies. Maybe should read Debt by Graeber first?

The problem is that all of the books go over how capitalism rises solely for the west. What about every other society? I want to see how capitalism rises in every society. Did it just come by imitation? Also, if coinage came in 600BC, how is that different from capitalism in 1700? To me capitalism is simply the use of currency, not the industrial revolution, or whenever a few control the mean of production.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism

Capital has existed incipiently on a small scale for centuries,[35] in the form of merchant, renting and lending activities, and occasionally as small-scale industry with some wage labour. Simple commodity exchange, and consequently simple commodity production, which are the initial basis for the growth of capital from trade, have a very long history. The "capitalistic era" according to Karl Marx dates from 16th century merchants and small urban workshops.[36] Marx knew that wage labour existed on a modest scale for centuries before capitalist industry. Early Islam promulgated capitalist economic policies, which migrated to Europe through trade partners from cities such as Venice.[37] Capitalism in its modern form can be traced to the emergence of agrarian capitalism and mercantilism in the Renaissance.[38]

Thus for much of history, capital and commercial trade existed, but it did not lead to industrialisation or dominate the production process of society. That required a set of conditions, including specific technologies of mass production, the ability to independently and privately own and trade in means of production, a class of workers willing to sell their labour power for a living, a legal framework promoting commerce, a physical infrastructure allowing the circulation of goods on a large scale, and security for private accumulation. Many of these conditions do not currently exist in many Third World countries, although there is plenty of capital and labour. Thus, the obstacles for the development of capitalist markets are less technical and more social, cultural and political.

  • makes sense for why Asians can live off of a food stands / booths: the culture allows it — dense settlement and not much law/beauracracy makes it viable. Try setting one up in the suburbs only to lose to a fast food joint.

Capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit.[1][2][3] Characteristics central to capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system, and competitive markets.[4][5] In a capitalist market economy, decision-making and investment is determined by the owners of the factors of production in financial and capital markets, and prices and the distribution of goods are mainly determined by competition in the market.[6][7]

Economists, political economists, and historians have adopted different perspectives in their analyses of capitalism and have recognized various forms of it in practice. These include laissez-faire or free market capitalism, welfare capitalism, and state capitalism. Different forms of capitalism feature varying degrees of free markets, public ownership,[8] obstacles to free competition, and state-sanctioned social policies. The degree of competition in markets, the role of intervention and regulation, and the scope of state ownership vary across different models of capitalism;[9] the extent to which different markets are free, as well as the rules defining private property, are matters of politics and of policy. Most existing capitalist economies are mixed economies, which combine elements of free markets with state intervention, and in some cases, with economic planning.[10]

Capitalism has existed under many forms of government, in many different times, places, and cultures. Following the decline of mercantilism, mixed capitalist systems became dominant in the Western world and continue to spread.

"History of capitalism"

Capital has existed incipiently on a small scale for centuries,[35] in the form of merchant, renting and lending activities, and occasionally as small-scale industry with some wage labour. Simple commodity exchange, and consequently simple commodity production, which are the initial basis for the growth of capital from trade, have a very long history. The "capitalistic era" according to Karl Marx dates from 16th century merchants and small urban workshops.[36] Marx knew that wage labour existed on a modest scale for centuries before capitalist industry. Early Islam promulgated capitalist economic policies, which migrated to Europe through trade partners from cities such as Venice.[37] Capitalism in its modern form can be traced to the emergence of agrarian capitalism and mercantilism in the Renaissance.[38]

Thus for much of history, capital and commercial trade existed, but it did not lead to industrialisation or dominate the production process of society. That required a set of conditions, including specific technologies of mass production, the ability to independently and privately own and trade in means of production, a class of workers willing to sell their labour power for a living, a legal framework promoting commerce, a physical infrastructure allowing the circulation of goods on a large scale, and security for private accumulation. Many of these conditions do not currently exist in many Third World countries, although there is plenty of capital and labour. Thus, the obstacles for the development of capitalist markets are less technical and more social, cultural and political.

"Agrarian capitalism"

The economic foundations of the feudal agricultural system began to shift substantially in 16th-century England; the manorial system had broken down, and land began to become concentrated in the hands of fewer landlords with increasingly large estates. Instead of a serf-based system of labor, workers were increasingly employed as part of a broader and expanding money-based economy. The system put pressure on both landlords and tenants to increase the productivity of agriculture to make profit; the weakened coercive power of the aristocracy to extract peasant surpluses encouraged them to try better methods, and the tenants also had incentive to improve their methods, in order to flourish in an competitive labor market. Terms of rent for land were becoming subject to economic market forces rather than to the previous stagnant system of custom and feudal obligation.[39][40]

  • hmmm that's one way a society can lead to capitalism. Ouch property rent already?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahajanapada, "Vamsa/Vatsa":

Kausambi was a very prosperous city where a large number of millionaire merchants resided. It was the most important entreport of goods and passengers from the north-west and south. Udayana was the ruler of Vatsa in the 6th century BCE, the time of Buddha. He was very powerful, warlike and fond of hunting. Initially king Udayana was opposed to Buddhism but later became a follower of Buddha and made Buddhism the state religion.

  • millionaire merchants? In assets in today's standard? Surely they didn't have caves of gold coins, did they? Who's playing with Wikipedia? But doesn't that count as capitalism, if they received the money by owning a bunch of slaves as their private means of production?

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Civics, Critical Theory, Ethics, Experience, History, Humanities, Literature, Metaphysics, Personal, Philosophical Movements, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Public Sphere, Social Philosophy, Travel, Urban Philosophy

Lessons in Research of a Past Time

22 May 2016 by Rahil

[todo: working title: Lessons in Research of a Past Time via the written medium that is literature (written history?)]

[related writings: What is Worth Reading?, Notes on Translations of Ancient Literature, Lessons in Research of a Past Time, The Kinds of Literature and the Extraction of Ideas]

This writing was extracted from The Public Sphere during the Second Sophistic. It developed while fetching books about the Second Sophistic, which occurred between the years 54 and 230.

a few lessons in research of a past time via the written medium that is literature (written history?):

I only retrieved this many sources because I’ve trapped myself near a library. Otherwise, [1] almost no one should ever go about researching via literature. It’s an ancient way of doing things. Traveling across time through societies via literature results in far less information and than traveling across space through societies. Furthermore, it offers no real experience. I still stand by my maxim: a single walk through a city cannot be written. (Though it can be filmed…)

[2] Ignore all secondary sources if the primary source exists. In this case, directly reading Philostratus may have been the best thing to do (which fits well into my reading list of ancient biographies after Plutarch and Suetonius), and the most efficient way to spend time. I am the historian, my critical mind, if interested, is able to deconstruct communication better than most. But I certainly wouldn’t spend the time to actually attempt to write history: that is not my goal — that’s a passive’s goal.

[3] Only if the experience of reading the source text is too meaningless without more peripheral information, or, if the primary source is too lengthy or of bad quality, then one may turn toward a political (traditional, political event chronology) historian. They seem to gather the primary sources, think a little — not nearly as much as social (modern, cultural, all-sphere-encompassing) historian –, and poop out a more cohesive single piece of writing. Literature misses the everyday life of the past which requires trying to place one’s mind into the time, with all its cultural and material (environmental) realities, which is impossible even if one experienced that period of time (loss of information in the writing medium [todo: link relevant post]), but alas, ’tis the job of the modern historian. But even great historians are probably no fun to talk to.

[4] If one simply wants to talk about something in particular, that what a certain kind of social historians are for: a social(/cultural) topic historian. They’re modern, have a critical mind, and likely worth talking to. One can talk to these guys any time, on whatever subject one is interested in, but they don’t provide broad neither broad social history or political history, they just offer conversation about something specific, some topic they found interesting in the past. Want to talk about the perception of Indians by Romans? You need to find a social topic historian. They’re like the essayists of history. People can write about anything in the past, hundreds of pages worth, just as people can write about anything, as they do in essays. And that’s where Eshleman’s book came in.

It’s a book about the society of intellectuals in the Roman Empire. It’s not a book about the Second Sophistic, nor is it a political history of it, nor is it a social history of it. That’s the difference. One could read about the Second Sophistic from secondary sources or even primary sources, but if one’s goal was to simply talk about the society of intellectuals in the Roman Empire, then reading this [a social topic history] may be sufficient.

I imagine finding a book so specific is rare. I actually initially was interested in the social society of philosophers from Archaic to Classical Greece. How philosophers formed schools, what they did in everyday life, how they competed, etc. Then I stumbled upon this gem. Hurray for the Internet. Even the Internet, blog or journal or whatever, probably doesn’t have much about this. The discourse can only be found in this book. Crazy.

Blah, what a waste of time downloading the other books!

further reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historiography
– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_history
– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_history
– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historiography#The_Cultural_turn

[todo: move to The Kinds of Literature?]

examples of social/cultural topic history writings:

Eshleman, Kendra – The Social World of Intellectuals in the Roman Empire_ Sophists, Philosophers, and Christians (Cambridge, Greek Culture in the Roman World, 2012)
this book was the cause of this thought
this series of books is entirely composed of social topic histories; it serves as a good example of what social topics people at Oxford chose as recent as 2015
— “Greek Culture in the Roman World offers a rich field for study. Extraordinary insights can be gained into processes of multicultural contact and exchange, political and ideological conflict, and the creativity of a polyglot, changing empire. This was also a period when many fundamental elements of Western society were being set in place: from the rise of Christianity, to an influential system of education, to long-lived artistic canons. This series is the first to focus on the response of Greek culture to its Roman imperial setting as a significant phenomenon in its own right. To that end, it will publish original and innovative research in the art, archaeology, epigraphy, history, philosophy, religion and literature of the Empire, with an emphasis on Greek material.
— König, Jason – Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture
Hamilton, Edith – The Greek Way (1930[!])
also a study of intellectual life, the perfect companion to Eshleman’s book
Bailey, Douglass W. – Balkan Prehistory: Exclusion, Incorporation and Identity (Routledge)
Croix, G. E. M. de Ste. – The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World: From the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests (Cornell)
– books like these seem awesome, though this one is supposedly Marxist (economic) heavy
– Metzler, Irena – A Social History of Disability in the Middle Ages: Cultural Considerations of Physical Impairment (Routledge Studies in Cultural History)
— one can see the Fouccault attempts of finding the origins of ilk contemporary cultural norms
— Araujo, Ana Lucia – Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space
– Pettigrew, Jane – A Social History of Tea
attempts of tracing a particular custom to its origin

examples of social/cultural history writings:
social/cultural history:

– these usually have the words “social”, “cultural”, “new” in the title. Also could have “everyday”, “daily”.
a Goodreads popular cultural history books
a Goodreads popular social history books
— see any difference? It’s a mess of a boundary.
a Goodreads list titled “Social History Books All About People Society”
— this list is more about societies rather than customs

ancient:

can’t be written from experience, thus, a difficult task, requiring someone simultaneously highly tuned with contemporary life and ancient life, such as Edith Hamilton or Eileen Power, both of whom seem to be quite special women
– usually covers a single society or nation-state (i.e. empire) over a period of time
– Trigger, Bruce – Ancient Egypt: A Social History (Cambridge)
Eaton, Richard – The New Cambridge History of India, Volume 1, Part 8: A Social History of the Deccan, 1300-1761: Eight Indian Lives (Cambridge)
— social history through the lives of 8 people [within the society]! There are infinite methods to write a social history.
– Mommsen, Theodor – A History of Rome (1856)
— the only Nobel Prize awarded to a historian, includes both political and history. Ohhhh the humans futile attempts to organize the world!
– popular “time-traveling” books: from a goodreads review by Pete daPixie: “There appears to be a plethora of historical time travelling books appearing, such as Matyszak’s ‘Ancient Rome on 5 denarii a day’ and ‘Ancient Athens on Five Drachmas a Day’. Mortimer’s ‘The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England: a Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century’ was published in 2008”
Pelican [Books], a now defunct (and re-launched!) educational imprint of Penguin, seems to had many social histories, not just written by insular academics, but by more caring, artist-teacher-types, written for the public, which probably made them so good.
— you know, I’m guessing these little books might be the best way to throw one’s imagination into a past society, perhaps better than larger books because one can’t carry that crap around or use an iPhone to listen to it, because it has a bunch of pictures, and it’s simply to large to carry.
Burckhardt, Jacob – Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (Penguin, originally Phaidon, 1860[!])
Power, Eileen – The Medieval People (Penguin, Pelican, 1924)
Barrow, R.H. – The Romans (Penguin, Pelican, 1949)
Kitto, H.D.F. – The Greeks (Penguin, Pelican, 1951)
— she also wrote a social topic history: Medieval Women in 1975 (problems with publishing it?)
also some others such as Etruscans, Hittites, The Chinese People, Iran, The Irish, The Scots, etc. seem to be difficult to get now
I made a Goodreads list of these books.
— someone published the catalog of the Pelican main series, 500 books total
— Note: This is different from their Pelican History series, which I’m guessing is more chronological, if not, political.

some school’s architecture program “handbook” contains these Pelican books and more interesting things for the history in architecture course, including a now rare [illustrated?] Living Through History series by Batsford [Books]
— from the wonderful The Classical Weekly Vol. 49, No. 10 (Feb. 27, 1956), pp. 135-143, one finds the “Inexpensive Books for Teaching the Classics: Seventh Annual List”, and particularly on page 139, one sees Double Day [publisher] Anchor [imprint] Books (now merged with Knopf): 8 Selected Titles of the Classical Weekly, and in there one finds (in addition to the new self-correcting film series):
Socrates by A. E. Taylor (1933)
—- might as well snag Epicurus too, or more
— Five Stages of Greek Religion by Gilbert Murray (1914)
The Age of Constantine the Great by Jacob Burckhardt, Moses Hadas (1853[!!])
The Ancient City: A Study on the Religion, Laws and Institutions of Greece and Rome (1877)
—- this is indeed a classic for urban planners
A History of Rome from Its Origins to 529 A.D by Moses Hadas (1956)
— the other three are translations of literature (one by Kitto)
— ohhhh, the goodness of a liberal, self-education in the 1950s
Robinson, Cyril – Everyday Life in Ancient Greece (Oxford, 1933)
The Celtic World (Routledge Worlds)
if one is able to balance contemporary life and these big ‘ol books, then this might just be the best [social history] series [of ancient civilizations]

modern:

written from experience (hopefully!)
Demick, Barbara – Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Leave a comment | Categories: Applied Philosophy, Art, History, Humanities, Literature, Notes, Philosophy, Philosophy of History, Philosophy of Literature

The Kinds of Literature and the Extraction of Ideas

22 May 2016 by Rahil

[related writings: What is Worth Reading?, Notes on Translations of Ancient Literature, Lessons in Research of a Past Time, The Kinds of Literature and the Extraction of Ideas]

Why Read? To map words with ideas? To get ideas? To talk about a certain subject? To help me express myself? To argue against how reality works? To compare the theories of reality of others with mine? To understand others’ minds? To gain factual historical knowledge?

Whatever the reason, one enters the world of written word. It’s worse than the world of gossip, because it’s far less fun. But surely there must be an efficient way to get the texts one wants? Find ideas about the things one is interested in?

To begin, one must know the kinds of literature.

kinds of literature:

(from basic to large)
dictionary

encyclopedia
– including Wikipedia!

dictionary/encyclopedia of selected words/concepts/ideas
– ex. Dino, Franco Felluga – Critical Theory_ The Key Concepts (Routledge, Key Guides, 2015)

a dictionary/encyclopedia of a history of selected words/concepts/ideas
to communicate in a human language, it sometimes helps to use the terms other people created, for mutual understanding. Though, of course, one can just make up words for ideas one desires to express. That’s way more creative.
– also quite cool to see how words have changed meaning over time
– ex. Williams, Raymond – Keywords_ A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (1985)
– ex. Nealon, Jeffrey T._ Giroux, Susan Searlsb – The theory toolbox _ critical concepts for the humanities, arts, and social sciences (Rowman & Littlefield, 2012)

selected text/reading
– a piece of writing/work
Penguin Great Ideas series

writing/work/”book”
– usually has an annoying intro and preface and quote and thanks, can almost always skip them

selected works
– selected (multiple pieces of complete) writings of a single category, usually a single author
– ex. Benjamin, Walter, Peter Demetz – Reflections_ Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings (Schocken, 1986)

reader
– selected writings of a single category, the category could be a single author, literature from a period of time, or a category of knowledge. Of them, [selected writings of] a category (could be vague) of knowledge is the most important kind [of reader].
– ideally a reader contains all of the source texts needed for a class. Otherwise, it’s usually up to the teacher to grab a pieces of text from all sorts of places and give out copies. This may be the most efficient way to read, as one doesn’t waste time to fetch and gather several source materials, neither physically nor digitally
– ex. Leach, Neil – Rethinking Architecture_ A Reader in Cultural Theory (Routledge, 1997)
– (the Viking Readers, such as The Portable Beat Reader, mentioned under anthology fit here too)

anthology/sourcebook/source book

– selected writings of a single period of time?
this may be the most efficient way to understand a period of time, or the social development of minds of the time
there seems to be two kinds: fiction (poetry, [fiction] prose, drama, etc.) and non-fiction (history, biography, philosophy, essay, jouurnal/diary, travelogue, speeches, dialogues, letters, communicative action: verbal utterances that matter). Of the two, the second kind is superior, because it tells of real communicative actions. To simply understand: People in the past may have read Homer, Epic of Gilgamesh, and Journey to the West, but that clearly doesn’t represent the social reality of the world, and often, doesn’t affect the social reality at all, just as media (entertainment) in contemporary society doesn’t. The main use of literature to a historian is for the information, and it’s up to the historian to decipher what is fictional and what isn’t. Even then, it is better to read a history or biography [than fiction] written in or around that time to obtain more information [about that time].

fiction

– ex. the Viking Portable Library series, the ones that have “Reader” in the title
— I have a bunch of these at home. Although an experience to read, it was probably a one-time experience: to see how language change over time, how minds change over time, what people write, what people were thinking about, history of literature aesthetic, etc. Although the format of the books are wonderfully basic, they are best left in in random locations in one’s dwelling. I don’t desire to read any fiction, just as I didn’t desire to when I first began to read.
– ex. Mair, Victor H. – The Columbia History of Chinese Literature (Columbia, 2001)
– ex. many editors – The Norton Anthology of World Literature (W. W. Norton & Company, 2012)
this seems like quite the feat, check out the contents
— alternative: Longman Anthology of World Literature
a Goodreads list of anthologies
— see the eurocentrism yet?

sourcebook

– the terms sourcebook and the less commonly “source book” seem to be used for anthologies that mainly have translated writings (fiction and non-fiction), usually of ancient writings (as in probably written on stone or bamboo). “Source book” seems to be more commonly used for odd things like mysticism, table-top role-playing games, and science writings (because they are rarely read, except for a history of science).
– ex. Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli, Charles A. Moore – A Source Book in Indian Philosophy (Princeton, 1957)
– ex. Chan, Wing-Tsit (Chen, Rongjie) – A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton, 1969)
ex. Internet History Sourcebooks Project
— this is a wildly ambitious project covering ancient, medieval, modern, and even, though comprehensively covered, African, East Asian, Global, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, and some special things, like history of science, women’s history, LGBT history

non-fiction

– As I mention in Lessons in Research of a Past Time, there are many kinds of history books, mainly, political (traditional), social (modern), and specific social (modern). Similarly, there are many kinds of sourcebooks, thankfully, they can be divided into the same categories: social (modern) and social topic (modern, specific). A source political history book is the political (traditional) sourcebook.

social sourcebook

these kinds of anthologies of sources of social/everday/daily life may be one of the best ways to understand the society/culture of the past time. This is documentation of reality. This is the equivalent of watching a documentary film. There’s real knowledge to be had here. This is more important than philosophy. This was reality.
– ex. Bagnall, Roger S., Peter Derow – The Hellenistic Period_ Historical Sources in Translation (Blackwell, Sourcebooks in Ancient History, 2003)
— “This book presents in translation 175 of the most revealing documents that have survived on stone and papyrus from the Hellenistic period.”, ex. chapter: Social Relations and Private Life
– ex. Parkin, Tim and Arthur Pomeroy – Roman Social History_ A Sourcebook (Routledge, Sourcebooks for the Ancient World, 2007)
— “this excellent resource covers original translations from sources such as inscriptions, papyri, and legal texts. Topics include: social inequality and class; games, gladiators and attitudes to violence; the role of slaves in Roman society; economy and taxation; the Roman legal system; the Roman family and gender roles.”
– ex. Shelton, Jo-Ann – As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History (Oxford, 1998)
– ex. Dillon, Matthew, Lynda Garland – Ancient Greece: Social and Historical Documents… (Routledge, Sourcebooks for the Ancient World, 2010)
– ex. Dillon, Matthew, Lynda Garland – Ancient Rome (Routledge, Sourcebooks for the Ancient World, 2010)
— an observed trend: it seems critical theory publishers such as Routledge and Blackwell are on to publishing social sourcebooks, social topic sourcebooks, social histories, and social topic histories

social topic sourcebook

– Again, just as there are histories of social topics, there are sourcebooks of social topics. But as one can see, as the information becomes more and more organized, it becomes more and more insular, showing the ugly insular choice of elite schools’ publications of solely Western civilizations. As one proceeds toward the particular in the order of the organization of sources (primary, sourcebook, social topic sourcebook), the world becomes smaller. There are many primary sources that haven’t been translated. There are even more primary sources that haven’t been compiled into a handy sourcebook. And there can be an infinite amount of social topic sourcebooks.
– ex. Yardley J.C., Iain Mcdougall, Mark Joyal – Greek and Roman Education: A Sourcebook (Routledge Sourcebooks for the Ancient World)
– ex. Wiedemann, Thomas – Greek and Roman Slavery (Routledge, Sourcebooks for the Ancient World, 1980)
– ex. Asmonti, Luca – Athenian Democracy: A Sourcebook (Bloomsbury Sources in Ancient History)
– let’s just use one social topic: women’s history:
by using one example, women in history, one can already the amount that has been and can be written, and one can see what people choosing to focus on / be socially aware about. People still read eurocentric sources, then write social histories about them! What a crazy insular world the world of physically printed material is. And most are published very recently! It seems, historians, stuck in the printed world, have perpetuated insulation as opposed to doing their sole job: to write new histories.
– ex. MacLachlan, Bonnie – Women in Ancient Greece: A Sourcebook (Bloomsbury Sources in Ancient History, 2012)
– ex. MacLachlan, Bonnie – Women in Ancient Rome: A Sourcebook (Bloomsbury Sources in Ancient History, 2013)
– ex. Rowlandson, Jane – Women and Society in Greek and Roman Egypt: A Sourcebook (Cambridge, 1998)
– ex. Johnson, Marguerite, Terry Ryan – Sexuality in Greek and Roman Literature and Society: A Sourcebook (Routledge, Sourcebooks for the Ancient World, 2005)
and so the social problem of media [todo: link] continues. All other societies in any other space or time are ignored [excluded].

history of literature (or a kind of literature)
– selected writings of a period of time with writings to introduce the works
– in case one doesn’t feel like using Wikipedia while reading an anthology, this can be more or less efficient as reading an anthology, depending on the supplemental writing and formatting of the book
– ex. Lin, Yutang, many others – The Wisdom of China and India (arhive.org, 030122mbp)
– ex. Russell, Bertrand – History of Western Philosophy (Routledge, 1945)

other weird things:
history
history books written during the time one is investigating is a source, usually, the best source

school textbook, or simply, textbook
– some strange attempt at throwing a history of ideas within a category? Intellectual history?

academic/scientific paper
– forced writings?

academic journal

extraction of ideas:

Now, that we have the kinds of literature, how to get the ideas? If one simply wants words, then a quick Google of an ideas with “Wikipedia” in the search will likely lead to it. That’s how I got most of my vocabulary/ideas. I’ll try The Theory Toolbox book soon. Otherwise, ideas can come from any experience. After Wikipedia, my first book was a History of Philosophy (by Bertrand Russell, then Anthony Kenny to fill in gaps). That probably wasn’t necessary, as it consists of the Western canon, but neither was it the worst place to begin in the written world. At my home I have a bunch of books from the Viking Portable Library series; Just finding that series in a bookstore could be heaven, as it consists solely of primary source texts from periods of time; Flipping through several Viking Readers was an experience. From my experience, essays or selected text (usually selected from an essay) seem to be the most concise formulation of the extracting and understanding of an idea via written communication. Essays or selected texts are usually given to students to read, as part of the syllabus. Without a syllabus, essays or selected works that contain ideas can be found in the excellent Penguin Great Ideas series; but it has no direction. Similarly, a reader, such as The Place, People, and Space Reader (by the CUNY environmental psychology department), is also excellent at transmitting ideas, but with a direction

That may be as far as I’ve got in my experience of reading, and trying to extract ideas. Those are the best sources I know of: They are the best because the editors select the text [from a primary source] which best forms an idea in the mind. No extra garbage text is added. Furthermore, Secondary texts are usually unnecessary, and generally do not provide nearly as much thought as the primary, because when reading primary sources the mind tries to grasp the author’s mind. It’s comparable to watching a Hollywood film as opposed to a documentary.

Perhaps just reading a few Penguin Great Ideas books and a few readings (selected text) from a reader is enough. It’s 2016. It’s time to play some games, watch films, take the train, meetup, live it up. The ideas will come. Perhaps Wikipedia was enough after all. No need to read.

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Communication, Essays, History, Humanities, Literature, Philosophy, Philosophy of Education, Philosophy of Literature

The Public Sphere during the Second Sophistic

20 May 2016 by Rahil

[todo: add more headers. Complete todos / reorganize.]

Note: This post currently has a lot of thoughts digressing in many directions. My bad.

writing transcribed from a paper, then continued writing here:

Sophism, during/under Emperial [Imperial] Rome, does not seem bad. It focused on human affairs: everyday life, the management of it, during the largest expansion of the empire.

There was less theory, natural science. Sophists may have prioritized superficial rhetoric [style over content], but it also prioritized politics, economics, and social life — isn’t that what matters most?

sophist competition

What’s interesting [to me] is how sophists competed, individually. The educational institutions of Ancient Greece had already declined to their demise. Without institutions, sophists taught privately (in their own home, in their student’s home, or in another private place perhaps [reminds me of Taiwan]) and publicly (via lectures in public venues — bookshops, outside, temples, larger public venues [reminds me of New York]). It seems that sophists were basically artist-teachers, public-philosophers.

Unbound by institutions, they had to compete in the public of competitive cities, and to do so rhetoric (especially oration) skills were crucial. Spoken language was the medium of politics. Written, perhaps less so, except in the form of conversational letters or short treatises. It was a time of actuality, action; It opposed the sedentary writing of knowledge of the recent past (Classical Greek philosophy). What mattered most were contemporary events, not science, — How to maintain the empire.

real philosophy

It seems not much of the Second Sophists’ works have been read (not sure if lost or deemed unimportant; only one modern English translation of the primary source exists), but I imagine their writings are about action, process philosophy, being, Stoic ethics, whatever needed to get shit done. And because of this, I think this period of time is worth idealizing, looking into, of the intellectual life, everyday life, the mass and the mess of decisions and actions taken to handle the doubling of territory size, tripling the population, and all the cultural conflicts within.

This is real philosophy: The recording of communicative action. It opposes the categorizing, analytic kind synonymous to the Western canon, likely created by people under ideal societal conditions and/or in isolation, which in turn, was likely extended by engaging in dialectic with people in the past who wrote under similar conditions. The communicative actions, decided by the discourse between Emperors, orators (including sophists), and senators, decided the course, the political course, of the empire. “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. Sophers, however, changed it.”

[todo: compare this kind of narrow political communicative action philosophy to modern cumulative social philosophy which takes into consideration the cultural, economic, environmental spheres, in addition to the political.

Well, surely the Roman intellectuals tried to take as much into consideration, as much as they were aware of at the time, within the time constraint. Because they weren’t aware of too much socio-cultural problems, I mean they were killing “barbarians”, they simply continued taking action determined by political communication, which seemed to be to continue expanding the empire. That’s not good.

Anyway, I’m more interested in how the individual intellectuals near-directly influenced the politics of the empire, internationally and locally., not so much of the specific decisions they made; they were terrible.]

sophize, now!

So. How does one begin, uh, sophizing? Hold discussions in public venues for free. Topics can be chose by me, then later decided with whoever participates. The topics should be socio-political, and they should be related to the area the discussion takes place in. Duh. The dialectics should lead to action. If they do not, then I have failed sophizing.

[todo: how does this differ from normal community consensus decision-making?]

media vs oration, and toward the ideal stage in the normative development of societies

Forget artistic mediums of communication. Communicate [directly] to the public. This is a better method of beginning socio-political change. No institution is required. Neither is technology. Just simple language. The complexities of experience, epistemology, social philosophy (critical theory, cultural geography, environmental psychology, etc.), must be reduced to a simple communicable language.

[todo: But, the institutions are in power, nearly everywhere, in all forms: educational, research (science, technology), governmental, medical, urban, enforcement (police), punishment, etc. Can one simply ignore them?

Yeah, and that’s what’s appealing about the [period of] time: it’s simple, straightforward, non-beauratic. “Atticus, at one point in time, received up to three letters a day from Emperor Marcus Aurelius. (Wikipedia).” That’s an ideal to strive for: the frankness and transparency of the Romans. And that can only happen in a society with Stoic-like ethics (todo: link to Stoicism in Taiwan).

In the social structure contemporary society, to change any institution, either the institution internally decides to change, or the public sphere pressures it to change (assuming the public sphere has a voice and power). That change is far too slow, even if seemingly progressive. All contemporary institutions would collapse if it experienced a single year that Emperial Rome did.

In contrast, the minimal social structure of Emperial Rome was dynamic, flexible; its intitutions could handle huge changes. There were no educational institutions to collapse, just a bunch sophists (individuals and groups); and the political institution, probably just a bunch of sophists posing as senators, whom also dealt with outsider sophists. Because there weren’t many institutions, people had to make decisions for themselves, take their own directions.

This seems like an ideal point in the normative development of societies. Any more order, and the institutions will become too fragile. Any less order, and ? [todo; not sure: the society collapses?].

side notes

In contrast, Plutarch was more of a hermit, not competitive, at least not by the end of his life, where he only orated to close friends and family in his small hometown, and spent most time writing.

thoughts on the introduction chapter of Eshleman’s book:

There’s so much appeal in the Second Sophistic to me: it reminds me of my experience in New York; Most intellectuals were not part of an institution, because there there weren’t many; Therefore, there were no professional qualifications to control expertise (qualifications didn’t matter much). The intellectuals had to maintain their rhetoric abilities in order to prove they were currently legit (no guaranteed professor or government positions). To be recognized as legit, skilled peers must judge their skills positively: “game recognize game”. Likewise, ability to judge was a required skill, as it determined recognized skill levels. (Eshleman, introduction)

Eshleman tells of how reputation depends on [1] skill, [2] reputation of peers, [3] academic record, [todo: finish thought]

They simply gathered in public places to discuss. [todo: finish thought]

Does this not sound like any other competitive structure? Freestyle (rapping), fighting video games, breakdancing: a healthy competition amongst artists in the city.

Romantic Periods

Hmmm, you know, I think I have a kind of romantic view of these kinds of periods elsewhere: the Warring States period of China, the Edo period of Japan (maybe? It seems factions warred until they united somehow), Archaic Ancient Greece [todo: find modern social history books focused on these time periods]. These are periods where there were no institutions, no [social] structure, and people panicked and scrambled around a huge amount of territory, eventually thinking of the most original ways society could live: they created philosophical treatises — ethical treatises: writings to calm the mind during the wars (Zen Buddhism, Spartan ethics (?), Stoic philosophy), writings to allow society to try to live a good life (Confucianism, Virtue ethics [too early?]), the most original epistomology (Pre-Socratic Philosophy, Daoism). There was a ton of energy during these times, and it was the wise individuals’ (philosopher, [Japanese] monk (?), [second] sophist) views that was of importance; and the rulers needed and turned to those individuals for answers. [It was] Only after they created more structural things to control society, like legal doctrines (Chinese Legalists, Athenien Democracy) or social structures (Spartan Constitution), and then institutionalizing them, did people stop thinking so deeply. The [political and later, educational] institutions lulled the minds to a peaceful rest, narrowing all future thought (ideologies of institutions), of politics and of ethics.

In short, when societies develop a social structure and institutionalize them, thought is narrowed by the structure, including thoughts about how one lives.

[todo: possible quote: “Like a good many other Greek philosophers he took a prominent part in the affairs of his native state, and was appointed to draw up a code of laws for it. It is perhaps worth remarking that the professional and professorial philosopher, detached from the normal life of the state and society and entirely absorbed in the work of teaching or research within his philosophical college or community, does not appear in Greece before Alexander the Great…” — A. H. Armstrong, An Introduction To Ancient Philosophy, Pre-Socratics chapter (I think)

another possible quote: “The sedentary life–as I have said once before–is the real sin against the holy spirit” – Nietzsche, Ecce Homo]

Inclusion/Exclusion and the Transition from Oral to Written

“…the need to demarcate the boundaries of a group in which membership was highly desirable (at least in some quarters), but poorly defined and institutionally fluid. (Eshleman, introduction)” The need to demarcate [group boundaries] is a problem of the human need to organize, in this case, socially organize. Having no boundary is an ideal of social organization: all participation should be open to the public and voluntary.

“…the other end, Christopher Jones has shown that a decisive shift in taste was underway already when Philostratus wrote, away from the improvised declamations that he cherished as the hallmark of the Second Sophistic, and toward the more literary style exemplified by Aelius Aristides (Eshleman, introduction).” Perhaps that shift is most apparent between Cicero and Seneca. Cicero were very oral, known for his speeches, letters, dialogues, and short treatises, written by his shorthand-innovating stenographer Tiro. Seneca more literary, with long letters, essays, and dialogues. After societies develop their primary institutions, perhaps the primary medium [of communication] shifts from oral to written, from an active, often nomadic, way of communicating to a sedentary one. With less action (war) or more sedentarism, time becomes of less importance, and so communicative action in the form of oration decreases, as does the amount of decisions and actions taken, perhaps because the medium of writing is less persuasive than oration (todo: link to media and action).

Eshleman’s Thesis and My Conclusion

“For Christianity, meanwhile, this period was an age of ferment and experiment, in which the core institutions of later Christianity took shape, at least in rough outline. By the middle of the third century an extensive machinery of “orthodoxy” was being forged: a powerful clerical hierarchy, largely fixed scriptural canon, credal norms of interpretation, and increasingly well-theorized mechanisms of certification, for both lay believers and clergy (Eshleman, introduction).” In parallel, the thesis of Eshleman’s book now, the formation of the Christian identity and institutions went through a process strikingly comparable to the formation of the sophist identity and institutions: experiment, compete, define, structure, authorize, institutionalize. Social organization, whether philosopher, sophist, or Christian, all go through the same social processes.

[todo: But, must it? Must societies organize into a single culture and then institutionalize it? Economically, perhaps, to survive together. But culturally, no: culture is a separate sphere. And that’s the point: having multiple cultures, diversity in cultures, diverse individuals, and nurturing them results in more explorative energy. This is common sense in a small scale, like a progressive school, an art organization, but not-so-common sense on a large scale. That is, how does one stop the social process or societal development before self-definition; or, how does one reform to go back to that thriving experimental, competing stage of society?

This experimental stage [of society] seems to usually occur in the history of civilizations during much civil dispute (competition, which in ancient times often meant war) until one culture (including philosophy) wins and unifies the societies. [todo: incomplete thought]

Does society even want that? Harking Kahneman’s answer of robust vs anti-fragile: no. Society wants to be secure.

Then, within a culture, or better, a multi-cultural place, there is only one choice: to individually, or with group of people, compete, experiment, define, structure, live life, but never authorize or institutionalize it upon others. [todo: kind of repeated, what’s different? First is general, next is contemporary?]

Thus, for those of us that do live in an institutionalized culture (everyone), all we can do is create our own little spaces of our own cultures, then experiment, compete (not war), define, structure, and rinse and repeat. Live a different way. You have the will. Try a different set of ethics. Try it even for just an hour, or a day. Try to live like an ancient Roman “with a tent and sword.” Create a new sets of ethics, and live by them. Be a saint. Be an asshole. Ignore the environment. Will your life.

a few lessons in research of a past time via the written medium that is literature (written history?)

sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Sophistic
http://www.livius.org/articles/concept/second-sophistic/
– tells of sophists as showsman, professional public debaters, even on funny topics such as “In Praise of Baldness”

1. Eshleman, Kendra – The Social World of Intellectuals in the Roman Empire_ Sophists, Philosophers, and Christians (Cambridge, Greek Culture in the Roman World, 2012)
– this book was the cause of this thought. It’s an amazing topic.

possible future sources:

primary:

3. Philostratus, The Lives of the Sophists. Trans. Wright, W.C. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961.
– main extant source. Perhaps the only source! If that’s the case, scrap the secondary sources.

secondary:

It seems most of these are already referenced by Eshleman. There’s probably not much point in probing these texts, except Whitmarsh’s or Bowersock’s short books or Anderson’s lengthier book.
2. Whitmarsh, Timothy – The Second Sophistic (Oxford, 2005)
– intro
?. Whitmarsh, Timothy – Beyond the Second Sophistic: Adventures in Greek Postclassicism (University of California)
4. Anderson, Graham – The Second Sophistic_ A Cultural Phenomenon in the Roman Empire (1993)
2. Bowersock, G. W. – Greek Sophists in the Roman Empire (Oxford, 1969)
5. Gleasonm, Maud W. – Making Men_ Sophists and Self-Presentation in Ancient Rome (Princeton, 1995)
5. Simon Swain – Hellenism and Empire. Language, Classicism and Power in the Greek World, AD 50-250 (1996 Oxford)
6. Goldhill, Simon – Being Greek under Rome_ Cultural Identity, the Second Sophistic and the Development of Empire (Cambridge, 2001)
6. Borg, Barbara E. – Paideia_ The World Of The Second Sophistic (Millennium Studies, 2004)

further reading:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axial_Age
– just stumbled upon this. It seems Jaspers beat me to it. But it also seems he tries to set a specific time period, whereas I’m just interested in the period of time societies shift from competing schools of thought, or even competing societies, to an institution.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orality
– not to be confused with a bunch of other seemingly similar terms in the English language

Leave a comment | Categories: Action, Civics, Communication, Determinism and Free Will, Ethics, History, History of Philosophy, Humanities, Personal, Philosophical Movements, Philosophy, Philosophy of History, Political Philosophy, Public Sphere, Social Anarchism, Social Change, Social Philosophy, Thoughts

Notes on Translations of Ancient Literature

19 May 2016 by Rahil

[related writings: What is Worth Reading?, Notes on Translations of Ancient Literature, Lessons in Research of a Past Time, The Kinds of Literature and the Extraction of Ideas]

Two recent posts have been about finding a good, if not the best translation and/or publication of ancient literature: Dao De Jing (道德經) and Zhuangzi (莊子) and Plutarch’s Lives. I took the notes and lesson from those posts and placed them here.

notes on publishers:

1. Penguin [Classics]
– good, simple book format (which is becomes more important when reading digitally): intro, then straight to content
– most often has (/ probably can afford and copyright) the best translation
– for prolific authors they to divide works by several books often with different translators, which would make word choices inconsistent, and reading a bit more cumbersome (again, doubly important for digital reading)
2. Oxford [World’s Classics]
– similar [to Penguin], but in the case of Plutarch’s Lives, failed by excluding content

Western:

1. none
– if one doesn’t like the Penguin edition, then some other random publisher may have a better publication (physical format, digital format, extra content) or translation (Hackett, Basic Books, Yale, Cambridge, etc.)
– if one wants complete works, again, some other random publisher may have it (ex. Modern Library for Aristotle and Plutarch’s Lives, Hackett for Plato, Landmark for Ancient Greece historians, etc.)
*. Delphi Classics eBook
– made for digital! Translator is probably limited to those that are available for free, which could be crusty.
x. Harvard [Loeb Classical Library]
– avoid, billingual Greek and very literally translated English, made for anal academicians. Perhaps for ease of secondary translators?

Eastern:

1. none – probably some random native translator who is capable of thinking like an ancient native person, such as Yutang Lin and Wing-tsit Chan for ancient Chinese philosophy
A Source Book in Indian Philosophy by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Charles A. Moore (Princeton)
A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy by Wing-tsit Chan (Rongjie Chen) (Princeton)
— published after helping Watson with Sources of Chinese Tradition (Columbia)
The Wisdom of China [and India] by Yutang Lin (Random House, Modern Libary, picked it up)
— he wrote a history of Chinese philosophy and even translates the Chinese sources, which I thought were the best translations of Laozi and Zhuangzi. For the India portion, I believe he writes the history, but selects translations of sources.
Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy by Ivanhoe and Norden (Hackett)
0.5 Columbia (Watson, Mair)
– seems like a niche monopoly here. Better than Penguin and Oxford for Laozi, and maybe Zhuangzi too (doesn’t this show how insular and analytic (read: anal) Harvard and Oxford are? And on lesser level, how insular even Columbia is for not having more, smaller societies?)! Also has anthologies and “source books” for literature and everything else respectively, which basically cover the entirety of a civilization’s past:
***Introduction to Asian Civilizations series***: Titles beginning with “Sourcebook” are comprehensive, “Encompassing social, intellectual, religious, and literary traditions“; Titles with “Sources” is an “abridged introductory collection [that] offers students and general readers primary readings in the social, intellectual, and religious traditions“. So, it seems that they are composed of social, intellectual, and religious histories. That’s a huge feat. That makes this series, as far as the East goes, the most valuable source that I have found thus far.
Sourcebook of Korean Civilization: Volume One: From Early Times to the 16th Century by Peter H. Lee
Sources of Korean Tradition: Volume One: From Early Times Through the 16th Century by Peter H. Lee, Yôngho Ch’oe, Hugh H. W. Kang
– Victor A. Mair is the editor of The Columbia History of Chinese Literature, The Shorter Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature , Columbia Anthology of Chinese Folk and Popular Literature, and a translator of at least Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Xunzi.
– Burton Watson is the translator of a ton of things all over East Asia (Hanfeizi, Xunzi, Mozi), and often a editor of the anthologies by Columbia, including one for Chinese poetry, The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century, and one for Japanese poetry, From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry.
*. Shambhala
– I ran into this publication for Laozi (3 good translations) and Zhuangzi, quite modern and good

The Lesson from the Translations of Plutarch’s Lives:

The Oxford and Harvard editions are “scholarly”, which for us mortals translates to less accessible, which opposes one of the tenets of art, making them detrimental to life. Leave those insular schools and their [publishing] presses to their insular selves. For the future: simply get the Penguin edition, if not, jump into a crusty old translation, more convenient if it’s within a reader or sourcebook, if not, do something else.

sources:

http://www.librarything.com/topic/14603
– a forum thread about the best translations of Ancient Greece classics

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/chinese-translate-interpret
– [todo:] worth reading, about the problems of translating Chinese

http://printmaking1101.blog.sohu.com/302231428.html
– random article Googled which contain some anthologies of Chinese philosophy

http://www.citytech.cuny.edu/academics/deptsites/socialscience/docs/courses/PHIL2121.pdf
– CUNY Chinese Philosophy syllabus

http://www.san.beck.org/GPJ-Bibliography.html
– a crazy extensive list of writings that may be somewhat related to peace from ancient to now

extra:

http://www.tclt.org.uk/10th_aniversary/Thoughts_across_Two_Thousand_Years.pdf
– a cool text by an independent translator which compiles quotes from people about translating spanning two thousand years

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Eastern Philosophy, Humanities, Literature, Literature Reviews, Philosophy

Translations of Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans [Parallel Lives]

16 May 2016 by Rahil

notes on the translations of Plutarch’s Lives:

1. Penguin [Classics]
– mostly translated by Ian Scott-Kilvert
– 6 books (about 8 lives each), complete
– book format: ?
– not available on Library Genesis, but it seems there are torrents, too bad I don’t have my laptop with me at the moment!
I’m guessing this is the best edition.

2. Modern Library [Classics]
– translated by John Dryden (1683!), edited by Arthur Hugh Clough (1872!). Though dated, from the little bit I read, it read just fine, on par with Perrin’s translation — an accurate translation. I would have to read more. Scholars advise to avoid Dryden, but I might actually prefer this over the scholarly ones.
– just 2 volumes! complete!
until I get the Penguin series, this epic one volume eBook is the best choice, they took the time to digitize it perfectly.
the introduction, a biography of Plutarch, is a feat in scholarship, whereas Bernadotte is merely a one page intro

3. Oxford [World Classics]
– translated by Robin Waterfield, and it’s amazing, super readable, little punctuation
– 3 books: Greek Lives (9), Roman Lives (8-9, contains Gracchuses), Hellenisitic Lives (?, published this year, 2016), incomplete as of now
– book format: for each life: introduction (by Philip A. Stadter), introduction sources cited (why!?), then Plutarch’s content. It is missing Plutarch’s comparison essays! At the end of the book there are notes, proper names, textual notes, etc.
– available via Library Genesis

3. Harvard [Loeb Classical Library]
– translated by Bernadotte Perrin, and it’s a little less readable than Waterfield, with far more punctuation marks, but perfectly fine and modern
– 11 volumes: two to three pairs each, complete
– for $3, Delphi Classics seems specialize in eBook, and in this case, has one for Plutarch, which contains the entire Parallel Lives and Moralia, both using Perrin’s translations, but I believe it keeps the Greek-English parallel format
– book format is rough for eBook readers as it is parallel text Greek and English. The eBook reader must have a landscape double page function, or else reading is impossible.
available entirely on the Internet Archive
LacusCurtius (Penelope.uChicago.edu), “A site for teaching yourself to read Latin inscriptions.“, contains most texts from Loeb, in English, single page HTML, all content maintained neatly, with links to Perrin’s notes and the author of the site, Thayer’s notes
– this would make it a better option than Oxford’s eBook for reading via eBook reader, but one would have to save them all as html (DownThemAll! Firefox plugin equivalent for Chrome?) then combine them in the correct order. I’ll wait until I get my laptop and get the Penguin edition.
The Perseus Project (www.Perseus.Tufts.edu) seems to separate html pages by each live and each section making it entirely unreadable (what is the point of doing this?). I’m not sure if there’s a way to view or download things in their entirety.

a lesson:

The Oxford and Harvard editions are “scholarly”, which for us mortals translates to less accessible, which opposes one of the tenets of art, making them detrimental to life. Leave those insular schools and their [publishing] presses to their insular selves. For the future: simply get the Penguin edition, if not, jump into a crusty old translation, more convenient if it’s within a reader or sourcebook, if not, do something else.

other Ancient Greek or Roman biographers:

Suetonius – Twelve Caesars
– published by Penguin
and Oxford
seems like the perfect Roman primary source companion to Parallel Lives
Diogenes Laertius – Lives of Eminent Philosophers
– published by Cambridge, perhaps it’s not plagued by “scholarship”
Philostratus – Lives of the Sophists
– solely published by Harvard [Loeb Classical Library]?
– digressing: The Social World of Intellectuals in the Roman Empire. *drool*. Need this for Ancient Greece.
Eunapius – Lives of Philosophers and Sophists
– contained in the second half of that Harvard publication of Philostratus
– All of the modern translations of these biographers are unfortunately available from Harvard [Loeb Classical Library]. There are older translations available on the Internet Archive, and some newer translations as mentioned, but I’d rather do something else. Perhaps in the future Penguin may deem them worthy enough for the common people.

sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_Lives

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loeb_Classical_Library
– good list of available primary sources sorted by literature category

https://books.google.com.tw/books?id=NhLQbSdTKooC&pg=PA479&lpg=PA479&dq=philostratus+plutarch+suetonius&source=bl&ots=x556zpyuPk&sig=uyPZpK9vdeyEmcjDTaPJMVqA8kg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjEmbGBiuTMAhVDtY8KHT-vBDEQ6AEIGjAA#v=onepage&q=philostratus%20plutarch%20suetonius&f=false
– Biography in Antiquity

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Humanities, Literature

The Choices in Taiwan and Initiating a Cooperative from Nothing

14 May 2016 by Rahil

the choices in Taiwan

Nor can it be said truly that a pure­blooded Chinese could ever quite disagree with Chuangtse's ideas. Taoism is not a school of thought in China, it is a deep, fundamental trait of Chinese thinking, and of the Chinese attitude toward life and toward society. It has depth, while Confucianism has only a practical sense of proportions; it enriches Chinese poetry and imagination in an immeasurable manner, and it gives a philosophic sanction to whatever is in the idle, freedom­loving, poetic, vagabond Chinese soul. It provides the only safe, romantic release from the severe Confucian classic restraint, and humanizes the very humanists themselves; therefore when a Chinese succeeds, he is always a Confucianist, and when he fails, he is always a Taoist.
– Yutang Lin (林語堂), Zhuangzi (莊子), "Introduction"

I recently felt that in Taiwan, and this may apply to any single-cultured country, that the choice of cultures is ultimately limited to two: with the society or without.

Taiwan lacks communities with diversity and ideal values. Of my time here, I have only found two places with ideal values but without diversity (of mind), and several with a little more diversity but without ideal values. Furthermore, I felt unable to find or even create a place-based community within Taiwan's society.

That feeling contrasts with the feeling in multiple-cultured societies, where I felt I'm able to manipulate a space to create a place-based community within the existing dense settlement, or simply join one of the existing diverse, ideal-valued communities.

Taiwan has one culture [not including aboriginal cultures], therefore there is only one choice within it. America has several cultures, therefore several choices exist through its cultures: other countries' cultures, capitalism, art life, consumerism, religions, non-culture, media-oriented culture (suburbanism), technological optimism, hippies, small towns, The South, etc.

In Taiwan, the only partially-inclusive spaces I have found with such diverse cultures are places where international people meet: hostels, Chinese class, post-graduate school. I have not found other spaces [within the society] that escape the cultural values of Taiwanese society.

Hostels are where I lived and what I mostly called a home, so the experience was phenomenal: I had a well-valued home, surrounded by a ethically-good culture and infinite nature. Without such places, one finds one's self in a scary singular society, and without willingness to participate in that scary society, one is left with only one choice: to leave it.

It is by far the society I've spent the longest time in, excluding the suburbs where I grew up. But, I can't say I lived in it the entire time. I was in my own world [todo: link a post which exemplifies this], while my body was in Taiwan's world. Perhaps the public spaces were the only Taiwanese places I've spent a lot of time in: the streets, day markets, neighborhoods, parks, nature: you know, the spaces where passion is satisfied capital-free. I'm unsure if that counts as living in it.

Alas, it is time to find that little place next to the mountain, not far from a city, with the best climate (and microclimate!) of the country. Somewhere east of Tainan I believe. And so, like the Trascendentalists who probably had to escape Puritanism, and the Taoists who probably had to escape Confucianism, I must escape Taiwanese culture, or whatever words one uses to describe the values of contemporary Taiwan.

At least, for the moment; Before I re-attempt to create an ideal community within the city[?] again; Or before I re-attempt to cooperate with Taiwanese society again [No! Create your own. Do not join others. Let them join you!].

progeniting an ideal cooperative from nothing, with special guest: Aristotle

[I] Also might need a place in the city too, but hopefully with good weather and easy access to nature to keep me sane [Noooo].

The next twelve years Aristotle devoted with extraordinary industry to the establishment of a school, the Lyceum, to the institution and pursuit of a program of investigation, speculation, and teaching in almost every branch of knowledge, and to the composition of all, or most, or at least the more scientific portions, of those of his writings which are now extant.
– Richard McKeon, The Basic Works of Aristotle, "Biographical Note"

This, except for my directions: critical theory, social and urban interventions, civic technology, games, etc.

Aristotle began teaching regularly in the morning in the Lyceum and founded an official school called "The Lyceum". After morning lessons, Aristotle would frequently lecture on the grounds for the public and manuscripts of his compiled lectures were eventually circulated. The group of scholars who followed the Aristotelian doctrine came to be known as the Peripatetics due to Aristotle’s tendency to walk as he taught.

So, I should begin by creating meet-ups in public places: ask a well-located temple; or can alternate places based on weather: hot springs, cold springs, day markets. Whoever comes frequently, may become a friend or associate, but the goal is not to create an organization:

Unlike Plato, Aristotle was not a citizen of Athens and so could not own property; he and his colleagues therefore used the grounds of the Lyceum as a gathering place, just as it had been used by earlier philosophers such as Socrates. Aristotle and his colleagues first began to use the Lyceum in this way in about 335 BCE., after which Aristotle left Plato's Academy and Athens, and then returned to Athens from his travels about a dozen years later. Because of the school's association with the gymnasium, the school also came to be referred to simply as the Lyceum. Some modern scholars argue that the school did not become formally institutionalized until Theophrastus took it over, at which time there was private property associated with the school.
– Wikipedia, "Peripatetic school"

If Aristotle was a citizen and was able to own property, would he have tried to get space? Did he have the money (surely Alexander paid him well. Maybe I'm reading this wrong?)? When such a good space exists, why spend money on another space? Use the public space!

Aristotle’s main focus as a teacher was cooperative research, an idea which he founded through his natural history work and systematic collection of philosophical works to contribute to his library. His students were assigned historical or scientific research projects as part of their studies. The school was also student run. The students elected a new student administrator to work with the school leadership every ten days, allowing all the students to become involved in turn.
– Richard McKoen

Yes, the program is entirely cooperative, and molded by the people within it. Though, projects shouldn't be assigned by one person, rather, people should assign it to themselves, and be responsible for it, out of intrinsic desire, which is precisely what a good social meet-up conceives in the minds of its participants.

Administration is a pain: setting up meetings, inventory management, etc. The dirty work must be shared, just as cleaning a bathroom in a shared apartment is.

Media can be shared within a physical space. It must be convenient to access to by participants that use it the most. Because one doesn't have a space, one will have to negotiate, in the case of a temple, with the temple's staff. [problem: access limited by time; not 24 hours]

The aim of the school, at least in Aristotle's time, was not to further a specific doctrine, but rather to explore philosophical and scientific theories; those who ran the school worked rather as equal partners.
– Wikipedia, Peripatetic School

Everyone has an equal say in the whole of the organization.

The meet-ups ("school") do not have a direction. The direction depends on its constituents, on what's in the mind of the participants at that time. The participants and the directions may change frequently: Directions are temporal as the wandering mind's thoughts. Participants are temporal too, as long as they are wandering too.

re-joining society

[todo: ???
I just had a daydream about restarting Humans of Taiwan, in Tainan, but with a critical theory emphasis. It's still a similar format, but I select topics, questions, to be more critical. Pictures too can be critical, of urban and social problems. With it, people commented, and sometimes it would be civically helpful, and I would be able to solve small problems with the help of commenters. Doing this everyday would provide me organizing experience, networking with organizations, civic discussion through Facebook, and I would provide a model to solve civic problems. It is entirely bottom-up, because I begin with the individual's problem; that is, what the individual thinks is a problem in their mind. By limiting subjects to I individuals' problems, larger solutions, projects, implementations, may develop.
]

Leave a comment | Categories: Applied Philosophy, Autonomy, Community, Humanities, Life, Personal, Philosophy, Philosophy of Education, Political Philosophy, Public Sphere, Social Philosophy, Thoughts

Notes on Crowdsourcing Civil Action

14 May 2016 by Rahil

From a somewhat old (1-6 months) paper:

urban planning problem -> [Chris Marker-like] video -> use Facebook comments to talk about it (Facebook comments as forums) -> leads to something?

problems in reality [can be social?] -> media -> create and publish project on a crowdsourcing platform (i.e. Kickstarter) -> implement

examples:
people don’t have or wear motorcycle helmets -> Humans of Taiwan photo -> crowdsource petition (to influence companies, law organisations, etc.) -> keep updated
broken traffic light -> photo -> find correct organization to inform -> create application to automate process (i.e. FixMyStreet)

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Civics, Design, Humanities, New Media, Personal, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Thoughts

Translations of Laozi and Zhuangzi: A Translation Hell / 老子,莊子:翻譯的地獄

12 May 2016 by Rahil

I’ve recently had a stomach-based fever, which gave me some more down-time to continue reading light meditative material, and even watch a Ghibli film!

But before I could read, I had to get through translation decision hell for Laozi’s (老子) Dao De Jing (道德經) and Zhuangzi (莊子). For now, here are my notes:

Laozi

Modern Chinese:
?. There are two versions on Project Gutenberg. One seems to be similar to the one on ctext; The other has more punctuation.
x. 陳鼓應,《老子今註今譯》
– The format makes this unreadable (digitally and physically!): original text in Classical Chinese -> massive amount of notes (500 pages) -> translation in Modern Chinese; No parallel text.

English:
Literal:
0. Yutang Lin
– best first verse, poetic yet literal, entirely comprehendable, no random words left as other translators do with Chinese, better choice of words: “absolute” over “eternal”, “from mystery to deep mystery” over merely “deep and profound” or “deep and deep” or “deep again”
– I initially got only the main text from terebess, which is what I based my decision on, but it seems his book, Wisdom of Laotse (maybe included in his Wisdom of China and Wisdom of China and India), is 300 pages with notes, probably having the best introduction, an imaginary discussion with Zhuangzi, then fits bits of Zhuangzi where it makes sense. He gets it. It must be a gem, a jade perhaps.
0. Tim Chilcott
– this fantastic find is a parallel text which includes simplified Chinese, hanyu pinyin, and his own translation, which itself seems quite good, probably borrowing a lot from past translations. It’s fantastic because the pdf file is modern, with links to notes on words and phrases. I’m starting to think this text is best translated by non-academics. Also, he created a cool text which compiles quotes from people about translating spanning two thousand years .
1. Wing-Tsit Chan
1. John Wu (Shambhala)
– Chan and Wu seem quite similar, both supposedly highly reputed translations. I started with Chan then changed to Yutang Lin.
1.2?. Waley
– also highly reputed
?. Ling-Feng Yen (both versions: Mawangdui Boshu Laozi)
?. Ivanhoe
?. Henricks (combines both versions [Wangbi and Mawangdui], also has other slip translations)
x. D.C. Lau (two versions)
– converts text to fit English grammar; Terrible.

Poetic:
1. Jane English (Vintage)
2. Ursula Guin (Shambhala)
– both look great, maybe English more attentive, with better intuition. Guin’s has nice informal contemporary dialog after every few verses.

Zhuangzi

Modern Chinese:
*. see Modern Chinese translation of Laozi, as the same applies here.

English:
Post-scholarly:
1. Hamill and Seaton (Shambhala)
– seems to combine the best traits of all translations, includes book names, certain Chinese words in brackets, and feels most logically flowing making it the most comparehendable, but less poetic and more wordy because it uses more accurate English words
– use this if one doesn’t understand something.
1. Brook Ziporyn (Hackett)
– flows almost as well as Yutang Lin, but more complete like Hamill and Seaton, without being as wordy

Scholarly:
0. Yutang Lin
– little older, but my favorite translation [of all] (again!), poetic, detailed yet simple like Jane English’s Laozi, seems to have the best grasp of Chinese
– only translated the selected Inner (excludes one) and Outer chapters, eleven out of thirty-three, with reason in the intro
1. Victor A. Mair (normally Columbia, but Watson beat him)
– perhaps more accurate and still flows well, more wordy than Yutang, but on par with Watson, and even interprets into things less than Watson, original scholarly translation
– probably has a great intro, includes great concise history of China
– one of two complete translations
1. Burton Watson (Columbia)
– interprets a bit more than Mair and perhaps loses some of the Chinese poetics, but flows better than Mair with plain English, original scholarly translation
– probably has the a great intro
– one of two complete translations
?. Martin Palmer and Elizabeth Breuilly (Penguin), A. C. Graham, Jane English (Vintage, bilingual, inner chapters only), Feng Youlan (bilingual, parallel?), others
– I think Jane English’s version is probably the most valuable, and worth finding, it being poetic and bilingual [todo: find it!]. And of course anything Penguin is worth trying to get too.

Sources

http://terebess.hu/english/tao/_index.html
– contains the text (with simple html table of contents!) of like a hundred Laozi translations (including the greats), and two great Zhuangzi translations (Lin and Watson)

https://www.bu.edu/religion/files/pdf/Tao_Teh_Ching_Translations.pdf
– 8 side by side translation comparison (including Chan, Wu, Waley, Lin), the person recommends Chan, and Henricks for using a recently found source

http://www.hermetica.info/LaoziD.htm
– another list, unsure of credibility of judgement

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Communication, Eastern Philosophy, Humanities, Linguistics, Literature, Literature Reviews, Philosophy

On Stoicism

06 May 2016 by Rahil

On Stoicism

After what felt like several years of cold, summer finally arrived in Taiwan, with its beautiful shifts of before the storm weather, bursts of typhoons, and sweltering zero entropy humidity. With it, I began to wake up late, lulling to “Summertime” by Girls, and the rest of that half of the album. With the summer laze, I feel I can relax, be apolitical, do some useless professional work for a high rate of capital. So, I thought, it would be an excellent time to read some Stoicism, especially Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

Here, it seems, I found my childhood’s ethics (Moderate Ethics, Early Ethics, I’m Fortunate). Be responsible, diligent, do your work, focus on work. But I was a child, Marcus was a Roman Emperor. It seems he never grew up out of these childish ethics. He did his work diligently until death. He lived a rather normal life.

Not to be sidetracked by my interest in rhetoric.

Book one’s ethics merely sketches the model of a socially normal, straightforward father: the model of the role he played. To play that role was his goal, the plan, for him, and then by him.

That I wasn’t more talented in rhetoric or poetry, or other areas. If I’d felt that I was making better progress I might never have given them up.

He avoided the difficulties of academic philosophy, granted he was reared to become an Emperor. He avoided thinking deeply. He didn’t think of the problems of philosophy, mind (psychology), humans (anthropology), society (social philosophy, political philosophy). By avoiding it all, he lacked critical thinking in these areas.

He also avoided art, in the education from it, and the process of creating it. His communication was restricted to human languages: rhetoric.

That whenever I felt like helping someone who was short of money, or otherwise in need, I never had to be told that I had no resources to do it with. And that I was never put in that position myself—of having to take something from someone else.

He never experienced what it is to be someone else, poor, a slave, in a different place, excluded, etc. He probably didn’t think deeply of these problems either; It’s against his principles. Therefore, his view of societies and individuals was very limited.

If my childhood ethics match his, then perhaps he too didn’t experience or concieve what it would be like to be raised and live in other societies and their cultures. He kept the same role, job, class, but physically moved for work purposes. It almost sounds like the ethics of a good suburban child, which makes it seem as if he derived much of his philosophy within the walls of his isolated cozy dwelling, which contradicts the reality of an Emporer’s life.

His ethics are shallow. His cherished traits avoid the discovery of knowledge (of humans and natural science), art, design, and technology. Therefore, he is merely reduced to an interlocutor with good rhetoric and socially normal ethics. This may have worked for the role of an Emporer, but it doesn’t work for a society (easily apparent for Ancient Greece, with its many philosophers, artists, and formal and natural scientists).

Stoicism in Taiwan

It seems the culture of Taiwan have many characteristics of Stoicism embedded [into it]. Perhaps there is some overlap between Confucius ethics and Stoicism. The culture still reads Ancient Greek philosophy as part of their early and late education. The country lacks contemporary forms of art (entirely: in education, museums, and the hippest art districts); their medium is mostly the Chinese language and physical crafts (which is basically the only forms in the history of Chinese art). The culture restricts people from expressing themselves, prioritizing responsibility (or benevolence?). The culture doesn’t understand the process of creativity, throwing diverse people and ideas together in the same space, thinking, expressing, out of passion, out of intrinsic desire, altering society. There have never been any great artists (three exceptional filmmakers, also art here being a very limited definition), philosophers (according to the West), designers, or inventors from the country.

The same contradictions of Stoicism exist in Taiwan’s culture: they work diligently without questioning why. There isn’t deep thought into social philosophical problems. This allows capitalism to nearly freely determine the lives of the people. They work diligently for capital without questioning why. Work is work, and life is so. Perhaps it’s hard, but what can be done? That is the ideology. An ideology which contains stoicism.

There are no passions to do more, to create, to consume crazily for gestalts, to think independently, to go out and dance all night, to make games all day, to analyze deeply of social or cultural problems, to desire social or cultural change, to innovate to solve social or urban or environmental problems, to engage in dialectic with institutions internationally to cooperate academically, to obstruct society or individuals in any way, to engage in any kind of serious conversation with other individuals.

Thus, all there is to do in the culture is to live a Stoic’s life: to live “responsibly”, work, consume (increased by capitalism), have shallow experiences (because aesthetics have not developed), shallowly understand others (and make huge generalizations of entire races and countries), yet be kind toward all, living unexamined lives.

It [stoicism] creates a society that is unartful, dispassionate, uncritical, apolitical, uniform.

A Note

Though I am critical of Book 1 of Meditations and of Marcus, these are only a few selected highlights which I wanted to focus on and argue against. I actually think there are a ton of good or interesting things said in the book. I just had to get this bit out of my mind before I continued.

It seems, thus far, though Marcus wrote well of Stoic ethics, Epictetus (and probably Seneca too) reaches much deeper in philosophy.

This website provides good info for translations, and a good introduction book.

Selected Highlights and Notes on Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Book 1:

To do my own work, mind my own business, and have no time for slanderers.

To practice philosophy, and to study with Baccheius, and then with Tandasis and Marcianus. To write dialogues as a student. To choose the Greek lifestyle—the camp-bed and the cloak.

– No sports, focus on philosophy! Also, writing dialogues seems like a good method of learning. And, having a camp bed, to allow the body to live simply, is great. The cloak, I’m guessing refers to war, which in the context of time, is also a great decision, and really must have shaped their body, attunning them to reality. Of this last bit, I feel related to my desire for nomadism, to avoid sedentarism.

Not to be sidetracked by my interest in rhetoric.

– *** Avoid abstract philosophy, stick to reality, action, practical philosophy. Practice, not academic philosophy

Independence and unvarying reliability

– ***

pay attention to nothing, no matter how fleetingly, except the logos

– *****

And for introducing me to Epictetus’s lectures—and loaning me his own copy.

– Mmm, Epictetus book of lectures, maybe includes the enchiridion!

What it means to live as nature requires

– and later again, That I was shown clearly and often what it would be like to live as nature requires
– Second time mentioned this. I guess it’s just stoicism from earlier stoics.

…the principles we ought to live by.

– Should humans have principles?***** It seems to me Marcus took a set of principles, ethics, to live by, but is it possible that such a set could be successful? Doesn’t life require different sets for different goals? To experience different states of minds. I don’t think any stoic would make a good artist, or many other personalities. They are a narrow set of personalities made for the Senate.

His ability to get along with everyone.

– *** Reminds me of Ivar. Getting along with everyone is different from being everyone, or another. There is still a class difference. One can get along with a slave, but to do nothing about the fact slavery exists is wrong.

To recognize the malice, cunning, and hypocrisy that power produces…

– Sneaky power tricks of upper classes

…the peculiar ruthlessness often shown by people from “good families.”

– Mmm, corrupted upper class

Not to be constantly telling people (or writing them) that I’m too busy, unless I really am.

– ***** very important. I think Taiwan’s culture is good with it. But with such small deeds, could one ever specialize knowledge? And change society through discovery or technology?

Similarly, not to be always ducking my responsibilities to the people around me because of “pressing business.”

– ***** Responsibilities to the people around. Sounds like a spatial thing there. But yes, perhaps being responsible is another stoic standard. But, did he ever think of why he was responsible for them? Does he not think of what other groups of people or societies are responsible of? Is he simply a completely digiligeny socially normal person?

…conceived of a society of equal laws, governed by equality of status and of speech, and of rulers who respect the liberty of their subjects above all else.

– ***** this is beautifully simple

Doing your job without whining.

– Slave-like thought, if the job I’d actually harmful to society, or useless

…his advance planning (well in advance)

– ***** as opposed to desiring socio-political change now, slow change for the slaves

That I wasn’t more talented in rhetoric or poetry, or other areas. If I’d felt that I was making better progress I might never have given them up.

– *****Neither a politician or an artist

That whenever I felt like helping someone who was short of money, or otherwise in need, I never had to be told that I had no resources to do it with. And that I was never put in that position myself—of having to take something from someone else.

– Fortunate in capital too, no experience of being excluded or poor

That when I became interested in philosophy I didn’t fall into the hands of charlatans, and didn’t get bogged down in writing treatises, or become absorbed by logic-chopping, or preoccupied with physics.

– Not science, not philosophy treatise, not minute logic. Just the practical bits that can be applied to life: notably, ethics.
— (end of Book 1 selected notes and their highlights)

[todo: possible quotes:

The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and the active relationship between cosmic determinism and human freedom, and the belief that it is virtuous to maintain a will (called prohairesis) that is in accord with nature.
– Wikipedia, Stoicism

According to Stoic ethical theory, the stage in which a human being merely keeps himself alive leads to the stage in which he chooses the good and rejects the bad; this leads to the exercise of choice out of a sense of duty of which he is not fully conscious. The fourth stage is the state of continuously making the correct choice. The final stage of ethical development sees the individual abstracting from experience and forming general ideas about good and evil. This results in an understanding of the natural order of the cosmos to which choices are to be made to conform. In other words, he sees the harmony of the Whole, which is the good, because the harmony is nature. He then chooses to conform to the harmonious Whole, being fully conscious of its nature through abstraction.

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