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Category Archives for: Philosophy of History

Reading Political History

28 May 2016

[aka Criticism of the Experience of Reading Political Histories]

Thoughts after [listening to] 25 minutes of A History of Rome by Hadas Moses:

The format is wonderful: chronologically ordered narrative with huge quotes from ancient sources{, starting with Livy}. It reads like one huge story!

But, is it worth reading such text? It’s so unreal, granted, it does start with the more legendary ancient stuff. Can anything be learned? I highlighted and noted so few bits, especially when compared to, say, Georg Simmel, or any biography: In a biography I can try to see why a person takes the actions that they did; In philosophy, I can match many of my own ideas to the philosopher’s, picking up some words, mapping some ideas together, or with better reading actually learn something or provoke thoughts. But reading a narrative (political) history seems as dull to the mind as reading a narrative fictional book: It feels as if there is no social reality to to try to understand actions; There are no ideas to better understand the world and people’s minds. The society is simply too distant. Perhaps reading about Romans war is similar to reading about New Guinean tribes war. The difference in the experiences of reading and watching a documentary is phenomenal. My mind works during the experience of watching. Things click, neurons are linked.

I will continue, but I think, watching any sort of socially real film is a far better use of time.

Perhaps reading social history is a better experience.

Leave a comment | Categories: Applied Philosophy, Art, Communication, Experience, Humanities, Literature, Media, Philosophy, Philosophy of History, Philosophy of Literature

Lessons in Research of a Past Time

22 May 2016

[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

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historiography
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_history
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_history
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historiography#The_Cultural_turn
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historiography#Approaches

[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, main series], 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 Public Sphere during the Second Sophistic

20 May 2016

[todo: Headers are mixed up. 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

sources

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Sophistic
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:

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.
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

Time and Space in Anthropology

19 December 2015

[todo: kind of messy, but I think I got out the main ideas: comp lit / phil, the impossibility of mirror of reality, emphasis on time instead of space, should look at past pictures that I took to understand the world {mmmm, this is a good idea that I didn’t mention. Should look at pictures to remember one’s personal past as opposed to reading history one hasn’t experienced, or even experiencing more things. There’s much to understand from past experiences.}, should live in a city, or, take a scooter around.]

I’ve been moving around since I received a bicycle at age 4, and since at least then it seems, compared to others, I’ve always emphasized space over time. Contrary to me, people who write books don’t seem to travel much (probably reading and writing so much) and emphasize time, looking back in history. As a person who enjoys traveling and doesn’t enjoy reading, I’ve tended to disregard writers, many of whom maybe be classified as academics, and time.

As travel is more natural to me, so is comparing societies and the areas they exist in.

Academics seem to tend to look at societies historically, to gain ideas that worked in the past and reuse them for the future, or see compare the trajectories of societies in the past, but isn’t it easier to simply walk around one’s own country — from rural to urban, variously sized settlements, ethnic enclaves, and perhaps, to neighboring countries — to not just gain ideas, but a better understanding of the world?

One of the simplest and greatest learning experiences is simply going to the most developed city one can. One will immediately experience good urban planning, good neighborhoods, good creative and innovative environments, and good communities.

The next great experience is to travel from a good creative area to nature, experiencing all of the steps in the development of societies in-between — the entire spectrum of urban development. Though, I wouldn’t say the spectrum of human development. This experience is especially useful in a society under a capitalistic system, because capitalistic cities are so corrupt, and better values can be found outside of it, often, just outside of it.

What next? Travel more societies? Live in one of the past societies? [todo]

I always feel that one is able to have infinite experiences with the many societies that exist right now, at this time. Instead of looking at history, one could simply find some aboriginal tribes. Even just outside of the cities in Virginia, USA, where I’m from, one can probably find people living on a similar standard to aboriginals. The difference here is only the import of manufactured products, though, it’s quite difficult to evade global capitalism even in the most remote regions.

Hmm, I guess what I was getting at is that reading histories of societies cannot replace experience in contemporary societies, for the same reasons a book cannot replace an experience — it’s not holistic; It’s missing the ecology.

There is no way to mirror reality into the medium, though, film comes close. So reading histories will always be missing much information. The mind cannot form the precision that reality offers from media.

[todo: was trying to get to the point where the mind thinks with recent audio-visual experiences best, because the detail of it only constrained by the mind]

It seems higher order academic disciplines compare academic disciplines and hopefully by now more modern medias, titling it “comparative [subject]”, i.e. comparative literature, comparative history, etc. This discipline also seems to somehow overlap with my favorite direction: critical theory. The people who compare medias sometimes find light in their comparisons of societies at different times in history, i.e. Foucault’s findings of how institutions have developed over time.

That’s not how I think, and maybe, it’s not natural to think that way. I think about my personal experiences in societies, travel or living. How do the suburbs in Virginia compare to the city of San Francisco, San Francisco to New York, New York to other cities in the world, Singapore to Hong Kong, the culture of Korea to Japan, the culture of Taiwan to Nepal, the culture of Taiwan aborigines to the culture of Zomia, Taipei to Japan, the other cities in Taiwan to other huge cities, the slums in India to the Myanmar refugee camps in Thailand, the railway and railway towns of Asia, and so on. I just don’t think any amount of media can overcome the natural tendency to compare real experiences to real experiences. Certainly not in reading. Film has a chance, but it would have to be done in the form of lengthy documentaries.

So here again, I grind against academia and their use of a mirror of reality, as opposed to reality, to excavate knowledge and ideas. History is one way to compare societies, but it should be far less privileged than travel. I’d conjecture that academia’s tradition of privileging classics and privileging writing a medium has lead to academia privileging time over space. It’s true that global capitalism is eating away at all culture, but it hasn’t come to the point where one must look to the past through mediums for insight. The insight is in existing societies, in reality, and always will be, well, until the world loses to global capitalism.

Leave a comment | Categories: Anthropology, Experience, Humanities, Media, Personal, Philosophy, Philosophy of Education, Philosophy of History, Philosophy of Social Science, Social Philosophy, Thoughts, Travel