Category Archives: Authors

Let’s get metaphysical

Part of a series which began with Fake news and the ethics of belief.

Why am I so interested in what some random bearded Victorian dude thought about anything?

Here is one reason (in three parts):

(i) An important branch of philosophy – epistemology – is concerned with knowledge and belief.

(ii) An important position in epistemology – evidentialism – holds that beliefs should only be based on relevant evidence.1

(iii) Random bearded Victorian dude William Clifford effectively kicked off evidentialism.

knowledge and belief
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Eton mess

Interesting article by John Harris on the Guardian website. He quotes from ‘England Your England’, which is the first part of George Orwell’s The Lion and the Unicorn:

Probably the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton, but the opening battles of all subsequent wars have been lost there. Continue reading

Love in the time of corona

This follows When in doubt, answer a different question.

On BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions 10 April 2020 Jill Morris asked:

Does the coronavirus prove that God does not exist?

Last to respond was Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, who quoted Holocaust survivor Rabbi Hugo Gryn:

‘People sometimes ask me ‘Where was God in Auschwitz?’ I believe God was there himself violated and blasphemed. The real question is ‘Where was man in Auschwitz?’

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Fear and misery

While I was sorting through stuff in the house I came across another theatre poster, this time for The Fears and Miseries of the Third Reich by Bertolt Brecht.

The poster says August 2-7 but not what year. It must have been 1976 though as it was certainly around that time and August 2-7 in 1976 would have been a run of Monday to Saturday, which makes sense.

I remember we played to packed houses, but that wasn’t difficult as The Little Theatre Club auditorium only held about 50 people. Even though, that was during the 1976 heatwave, so it must have been quite cosy. Most evenings after whatever theatre performance was on there would be jazz, folk or blues until the small hours.

Fear and Misery of the Third Reich Bertolt Brecht
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More than the sum of its parts

I mentioned last time a parallel between two disparate things which seemed to me more than a coincidence. One was an example which Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka used to articulate his idea of the behavioural (as opposed to geographical) environment. The other was a fairly representative passage I remembered from when we were performing Peter Handke’s The Ride Across Lake Constance.

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Of chicks and cigar boxes

I was talking last time about the Lake Constance legend, Gestalt psychology, optical illusions, and the Jastrow Illusion in particular.

Most people see the lower arch as bigger than the upper one.

But apparently it’s not just people.

Jastrow illusion
Jastrow illusion
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Plain to See

A few weeks ago I wrote about Peter Handke’s play The Ride across Lake Constance, and the legend it got its title from.

Serendipitously I came across another reference to this legend in a book by Kurt Koffka, one of the founders of Gestalt psychology. In The Principles of Gestalt Psychology (1935) he uses it to distinguish between what he calls the ‘geographical environment’ and the ‘behavioural environment’:

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A Nazi drama in seven characters: Act 3

We looked last time at one ‘character’ from Peter Handke‘s The Ride Across Lake Constance who escaped the Nazi regime and one who didn’t manage to.

To complete the seven we now look at an Austrian actor who portrayed Nazis from the safety of Hollywood, and two twins who were born in Nazi Germany.

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A Nazi drama in seven characters: Act 1

We mentioned last time that in Peter Handke‘s The Ride Across Lake Constance the actors do not play characters as such. Instead they ‘are and play themselves at one and the same time’.

To avoid calling them ‘Actor A’, ‘Actor B’ and so on in the published text Handke names the parts after well-known actors. The dramatis personae therefore reads like a who’s who (or wer ist wer?) of 20th Century Germanic cinema, with all that that entails:

Emil Jannings
Heinrich George
Elisabeth Bergner
Henny Porten
Erich von Stroheim
Alice and Ellen Kessler

More on the first two below.

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