Category Archives: United States

Would you Adam and Eve it?

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

We finished last time with the opening paragraph of William Clifford’s The Ethics of Belief.1

This tells his keynote story of the passenger ship owner who manages to overcome his doubts as to whether his ship is actually seaworthy. He does this not by having her overhauled and refitted but by trusting in Providence.

The ship sails and then sinks in mid-ocean.

Is the ship owner guilty of the death of passengers and crew? Undoubtedly.

JMW Turner The Shipwreck
J M W Turner: The Shipwreck
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Banging on

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

Last time I explained why I think it’s so important to have a workable principle of good and safe believing.

In short, it’s because we need an antidote for the kind of fake news which led to the storming of the Capitol building, and for the kind of unjustified religious belief which led to 9/11 and the Spanish Inquisition.

Trump supporters storm Capitol building, Washington DC
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Taken for a mug

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

The last few articles (from Fake news and the ethics of belief to If only) have been getting increasingly technical.

It would be unfortunate if this meant losing sight of why I think this stuff about belief and evidence matters.

I am therefore going to backtrack a bit and, at risk of repetition, spell out what for me is the point of all this.

Thank God for President Trump
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What is and what ought to be

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

I was talking last time about 9/11, religious belief and fake news in relation to William Clifford’s 1877 evidence principle:

…it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.

Clifford’s principle has come in for a lot of stick over the years from those who saw it as too ‘scientistic’ – ie coming from ‘an exaggerated belief in the principles and methods of science’.

11 September 2001 attacks on New York City: View of the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty
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Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?

I wish I had written this. It was by Nate White, in response to a question on Quora.com. I can’t find the original, but it’s been preserved on other sites, including this one:

To Brits, Trump Makes Dubya Look Smart

It should make you smile. And it predates coronavirus. The thing is, surely he must have some redeeming qualities. But life is too short.

Chris Lawrence 2020.

 

Fasten your seatbelts

A few weeks ago I was talking about the actress Elisabeth Bergner.

But I didn’t mention the curious link between her and the 1950 Academy Award winner All About Eve, starring Bette Davis and Anne Baxter.

Elisabeth Bergner was born in 1897 in Drohobych, which is now in the Ukraine but was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Her career began in Austria and Germany, but the Nazi takeover forced her to move to London in 1933.

Hans Rewald: Elisabeth Bergner
Hans Rewald: Portrait of Elisabeth Bergner, 1929
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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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Ride around Lake Constance

Our subject last time was the legend of the ride across Lake Constance. But why did Peter Handke name his play after it?

Not an easy question, as in many respects the play seems incomprehensible. I remember being quite bewildered when we performed it. Any attempt to summarise the plot hits an immediate obstacle in that there is hardly any plot to summarise.

Instead you get occasional patches of apparent clarity which, just as in a dream, seem to change into something entirely different, with an entirely different meaning. Sorry – apparent meaning.

Peter Handke
Peter Handke in 2006
(Wild + Team Agentur – UNI Salzburg)
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Five uneasy pieces

Violinist Joshua Bell is currently Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in London. He was born in 1967 in Bloomington, Indiana. At 14 he played with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Riccardo Muti, and he made his Carnegie Hall debut at 17 with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. In January 2007, at the age of 39, he was playing to a packed house at Boston’s Symphony Hall, where half-decent seats start at $100.

Joshua Bell
Joshua Bell in 2010

But three days after that performance he was busking at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington DC. He always plays the same violin though, a 1713 Stradivarius. He had bought this a few years previously for an estimated $3.5 million. He played for 43 minutes and made $32.17. Continue reading