Maquina Lectora

Notes of a curious mind

Category: Philosophy (Page 1 of 2)

Inventing the Individual by Larry Siedentop

Is Christianity the foundation of our Liberal Individualism? In this wide-ranging and ambitious work, Larry Siedentop attempts to answer this particular question.

Siedentop’s central thesis is that Christianity was the foundation upon which liberalism was built.  Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism is a historical narrative spanning from Antiquity to the Medieval Period, 2000 years of history. Siedentop tells a remarkable story. Beginning with an overview of the Greek and the Roman world, where society was built around a patriarchal family, he goes on to examine the controversial Medieval period, generally considered as a period of cultural decline and stagnation. And yet, argues Siedentop, it was during the Medieval period that the ideas and beliefs of equality, individualism, egalitarianism, self-realization and free will, ideas that are identified as distinctively liberal, were developed and provided the space for secular liberalism to rice.

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A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being is  a tale about everything.  From the Second World War to Japanese tsunami and from quantum physics to Zen and the meaning of life.

Ruth Ozeki is a Japanese – American writer, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest. A Tale for the Time Being is a post-Japanese tsunami novel, a strange, complex, dramatic and humorous at the same time, narrative that touches several issues. Bi-culturalism, diversity, depression, bulling, isolation, suicide, global warming, the ethical aspects of technology. It is a novel about time and impermanence, about how certain kind of issues and problems are cycled back through time, about the ways we are all connected.

The character Ruth, a writer who lives with her husband Oliver in an isolated island in British Columbia, is trying to write a memoir but she is failing to do so because she is distracted by a diary she finds washed ashore some years after  the 2011 tsunami. The diary that is written in an old volume titled À la recherche du temps perdu,  belongs to Nao, a depressed, suicidal teenager that lives with her family in Tokyo.

Ruth reads:

Hi!…My name is Nao, and I’m a time being. Do you know what a time being is?…

Ruth becomes obsessed with Nao’s story and starts searching for evidence that Nao and her family are real or still alive. Nao had lived in Silicon Valley until the burst of the Dot-Com bubble sends her family back to Tokyo without a dollop of savings or self-worth. Feeling foreign and detached, brutally bullied by her classmates, isolated from her parents who are dragging their own weighty hopelessness and shame, she is “floating about on the stormy sea of life”.

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Homo Deus by Yoval Noah Harari

It took me a while, but it was definitely worth it !

An insightful, intelligent and witty book.  Yoval Noah Harari suggests that as science is converging on an all-encompassing dogma, which says that organisms are algorithms and life is data processing, human nature will be transformed because intelligence will be uncoupled from consciousness. The advances in sciences, more specific to neurosciences, nanotechnology and computer science, will change fundamentally the society, politics and our daily lives.


The brilliance of Hannah Arendt

Crises of the Republic: Lying in Politics, Civil Disobedience on Violence, Thoughts on Politics, and Revolution,  Hannah Arendt, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1972

A student of Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger, Hannah Arendt was one of the leading political philosophers of the 20th century. “On Violence”, first published in 1969, as a separate book, is one of the most  influential essays on the inverse relation between power and violence.

…. – the greater the bureaucratization of public life, the greater will be the attraction of violence.  In a fully developed bureaucracy there is nobody left with whom one can argue, to whom one can present grievances, on whom the pressure of power can be exerted. Bureaucracy is the form of government in which everybody is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule of Nobody is not no-rule, and where all the equally powerless we have a tyranny without a tyrant.

I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world

I was very young when I first read The Stranger. It was my first attempt on Albert Camus and I did know nothing about existentialism. I, nevertheless, become captivated by Camus, perhaps because of the strangeness of Meursault, the hero in the novel, his inability to express emotions, his extreme individualism, and his refusal to conform to social norms, characteristics that harmonised nicely with my adolescent sensitivities, alienation and quests for identity.

Today, I have outgrown individualism, at least the kind of individualism that Hayek describes as ‘false individualism’ which is the product of “an exaggerated belief in the powers of individual reason”. Alienation, on the other hand, is still here.

Meursault, a Frenchman in Algiers, lives an isolated life focused in the present. His plans, his idea of the future, barely extend to the end of the day. He is neither unhappy nor happy, he does not feel that life has any meaning and frankly, he does not much bother about it. He is existentially indifferent. Meursault is psychologically detached from other people, even from his own mother, the only family he has. On the announcement of the death of his mother, he shows scarcely a flicker of an emotional response. ‘It occurred to me that anyway one more Sunday was over, that Maman was buried now, that I was going back to work, and that, really, nothing had changed.

He asserts that life is absurd, a series of contingencies with no purpose or meaning. ‘I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world,’ he says. Almost accidentally, he commits an unpremeditated crime, he kills a young Arab. His crime is an act of free will and he assumes full responsibility for this but he does not experience guilt, remorse or shame. He shows the usual indifference and strangeness; he cares about practically nothing.

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Why Liberty: Your Life, Your Choices, Your Future

This is an anthology of essays about why Liberty is important and what it means to be a libertarian (liberal in Europe). The essays, which can be read individually, are written by young people, almost all of them are active in Students For Liberty, a dynamic libertarian international movement, and Tom G. Palmer, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, and also the editor. In general, it explores the idea of libertarianism in a context of a general sense; it does not go into great depth, but covers enough to give a basic understanding of the concepts involved.

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