Certain cognitive and philosophical aspects of the concept of conceivability with intended or established diversion from (putative) reality are discussed. The “coherence gap problem” arises when certain fragments of the real world are replaced with imaginary situations while most details are (intentionally or not) ignored. Another issue, “the spectator problem”, concerns the participation of the conceiver himself in the world conceived. Three different examples of conceivability are used to illustrate our points, namely thought experiments in physics, a hypothetical world devoid (...) of consciousness (zombie world), and virtual reality. (shrink)
As part of his program to unify linear algebra and geometry using the language of Clifford algebra, David Hestenes has constructed a (well-known) isomorphism between the conformal group and the orthogonal group of a space two dimensions higher, thus obtaining homogeneous coordinates for conformal geometry.(1) In this paper we show that this construction is the Clifford algebra analogue of a hyperbolic model of Euclidean geometry that has actually been known since Bolyai, Lobachevsky, and Gauss, and we explore its wider invariant (...) theoretic implications. In particular, we show that the Euclidean distance function has a very simple representation in this model, as demonstrated by J. J. Seidel.(18). (shrink)
The aim of this study is an analysis of the possible adaptive consequences of delivery of low birth weight infants. We attempt to reveal the cost and benefit components of bearing small children, estimate the chance of the infants’ survival, and calculate the mothers’ reproductive success. According to life-history theory, under certain circumstances mothers can enhance their lifetime fitness by lowering the rate of investment in an infant and/or enhancing the rate of subsequent births. We assume that living in a (...) risky environment and giving birth to a small infant may involve a shift from qualitative to quantitative production of offspring. Given high infant mortality rates, parents will have a reproductive interest in producing a relatively large number of children with a smaller amount of prenatal investment. This hypothesis was tested among 650 Gypsy and 717 non-Gypsy Hungarian mothers. Our study has revealed that 23.8% of the Gypsy mothers had low birth weight (<2,500 g) children, whose mortality rate is very high. These mothers also had more spontaneous abortions and stillbirths than those with normal weight children. As a possible response to these reproductive failures, they shortened birth spacing, gaining 2–4 years across their reproductive lifespan for having additional children. Because of the relatively short interbirth intervals, by the end of their fertility period, Gypsy mothers with one or two low birth weight infants have significantly more children than their ethnic Hungarian counterparts. They appear to compensate for handicaps associated with low birth weights by having a larger number of closely spaced children following the birth of one or more infants with a reduced probability of survival. The possible alternative explanations are discussed, and the long-term reproductive benefits are estimated for both ethnic groups. (shrink)
This guest column amounts to a conversation between two of the crucial figures in the world of Soviet bloc dissidents about developments in their part of the world since the overthrow of communism there in 1989. They agree that a “creeping coup d'état” is underway, in which not only the government administrations of their countries have changed, but also their systems of governance—for the worse. “It is not,” they agree, “what the democratic opposition spent twenty-five years fighting for.” Their apprehension (...) is that, under new forms, the old authoritarian impulses are returning to East-Central Europe as well as Russia. (shrink)
Modern professional behavior all too often fails to meet high standards of moral conduct. An important reason for this unfortunate state of affairs is the expansive self interest of the individual professional. The individual''s natural desire for his/her own success and pleasure goes unchecked by internal moral constraints. In this essay, I investigate this phenomenon using the psychoanalytic concepts of the ego ideal and superego. These concepts are used to explore the internal psychological dynamics that contribute to moral decision-making. The (...) contrasts between self interest and concern for others, selfishness and moral values, and moral conscience and social conformity are examined in Tolstoy''s study of the modern professional in The Death of Ivan Ilych. By reviewing Freud''s work on the moral conscience, particularly its complex inner structure and liabilities to dysfunction, and applying it to Tolstoy''s penetrating portrayal of Ivan Ilych''s personal and professional life, an understanding of the inner (emotional) foundation of moral character, its dependence on the past through the links between generations, and the need to integrate idealism with moral values is generated. Examples from Enron Corporation will be used throughout the paper to relate the analysis and discussion to contemporary business ethics problems. (shrink)
This article examines Václav Havel's unconventional route to democracy. At the core of the enquiry is an analysis of the role his Absurdism played in the development of his thought and activism. The essay illustrates how a typically literary, non-democratic intellectual orientation sustained Havel in his struggle for democratic political change against the abuses of really existing socialism. Yet, Havel's thought did not stop there; he eyed Western liberalism critically as well. Springing from his Absurdist sensibility was (...) a vision of democracy that was neither wholly liberal nor socialist, yet quite practical. By making a case for reconsidering ideas that typically fall outside the purview of democratic theory, this article also suggests the possibility of critically rethinking democracy itself. (shrink)
Ve své knížce Fenomenologie a kultura slepé skvrny předkládá Ivan Blecha tři eseje, jejichž společným jmenovatelem je konfrontace různých aspektů postmodernistické filosofie s filosofií fenomenologickou. Proti obratu k jazyku a z něj často vyvozovaného pluralismu nebo dokonce relativismu staví Blecha tezi, že svět, ve kterém člověk žije, je determinován způsobem, kterým v kadlubu své intencionální mysli konstituuje věci ze svého bezprostředního prožívání, a že tudíž tento svět není v žádném podstatném slova smyslu ani tvarován jazykem, ani otevřen žádným velkým (...) pluralistickým variacím. V prvním textu, ‘Znak, stopa, fenomén’ se Blecha zamýšlí především nad tím, co nazývá lingvistickou klauzurou (a co je podle něj přesvědčením společným francouzským poststrukturalistům kolem Derridy i americkým postanalytickým filosofům kolem Rortyho), totiž že člověk nemá bezprostřední přístup ke světu, ale jedině k jazyku, takže veškeré poznávání je jenom interpretace. Ve druhém, ‘Kant, pragmatický anti-realismus a Husserlova fenomenologie’ se zabývá tím, do jaké míry je opodstatněné relativistické domýšlení Kanta. V posledním, který je nazván tak jako celá knížka, pak polemizuje především s názory Wolfganga Welsche, které ústí do cílevědomého epistemického pluralismu. Myslím, že ty nejzákladnější otázky, které Blecha ve své knize klade, totiž otázka po nutnosti a mezích plurality a po tom, do jaké míry je nám chápání světa zprostředkováváno jazykem, jsou velice důležité a také velice zajímavé. Blecha se s nimi navíc snaží vypořádat, aniž by se obrnil hantýrkou, která by jeho obranu fenomenologie učinila srozumitelnou zase jenom pro fenomenology; a jeho kniha tím představuje výzvu k zajímavé diskusi. Do filosofů na druhé straně barikády se pouští s odkrytým hledím, a i když je, jak se budu snažit ukázat, sem tam v něčem dezinterpretuje, je jeho kniha ukázku toho, jak by se podle mne s konkurenčními filosofickými směry polemizovat mělo. Co se mi jeví jako dezinterpretace, se objevuje hned na počátku prvního eseje.. (shrink)
Václav Havel is a political hero to many for his brave opposition to Communist tyranny. His plays are less well understood than his political persona. His plays have been labelled ?absurd, depressing, upsetting, shocking?, and a ?dead end?. They are certainly ambitious, complex, and difficult to interpret. Havel's seemingly absurd plays are an effort to counteract what he calls ?the crisis of human identity?, a crisis that has occurred because of the loss of metaphysical certainty over fundamental principles. (...)Havel's plays attempt to overcome this uncertainty by presenting a phenomenological grounding for higher moral principles and a more stable and politically responsible sense of self. (shrink)
Ivan Illich, philosopher, historian, priest and social commentator died in Bremen, Germany on December 2, 2002. Illich was noted for his critique of the Church, education and medicine but his concepts dealt with more fundamental issues. This article reveals aspects of Illich, the man, and explores his ideas as they apply to the meaning of medicine and, in particular, the role of health care in contemporary society.
A decade after the fall of Communism in Europe, the Czech Republic'smembership in the European Union is still a matter of a relatively shortwaiting period of 4 years. Not so the imagination of this membership andthe creation of a political concept created to promote this goal: thespecific Central European policy initiated by Thomas G. Masaryk andrevitalized by Václav Havel. Despite the deep differences in thepolitical thought and philosophical orientations of both Presidents, notto mention the historic rupture of 41 years (...) of Totalitarianism, theirperceptions of Europe as an Imagined Community are identical. (shrink)
In 1925, Russian philosopher Ivan Il'in published a book entitled On Resistance to Evil by Force . The book generated a bitter polemic among @migré Russian thinkers, which constitutes probably the most thorough debate on the justification of the use of force ever conducted among Russian scholars. This paper analyses Il'in's work and places it into the context of Russian history and philosophy. Il'in argued that war was sometimes necessary, but never 'just'. On occasions, the only way of fulfilling (...) one's obligation to resist evil is to fight. At such times one must do so. But one must understand that what one is doing, though necessary, is unjust, because one is always at least partially responsible for the situation which made violence necessary. While not shirking one's responsibilities, it is only by facing up to the guilt of one's deeds that one can prevent war from undermining one's moral equilibrium. This paper shows that most of those who took part in the debate provoked by Il'in's book agreed with the fundamentals of his argument. This fact illustrates that there is a distinctive Russian philosophy regarding the use of force which in important aspects differs from Western just war theory. (shrink)
En este artículo presentamos una descripción de la crítica de Iván Illich a la sociedad industrial, específicamente en relación al problema de la energía y de la equidad. Especial atención es dada al concepto de convivencialidad y a sus posibles repercusiones para enfrentar los problemas energéticos. Una discusión en torno a la manera de Illich de criticar a la sociedad es presentada, en relación a lo que ha sido llamado un “humanismo crítico” y al problema de las necesidades individuales.
Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich describes how a man's exposure to imminent death allows him to secure redemption from a flawed life. Through close textual attention to Tolstoy's novella and extensive engagement with Frances Kamm's treatment of it, this article quarrels with this of Ivan's case, offering a sourer, more pessimistic view. It is argued that Ivan's reconciliation to death is facilitated by a series of mistakes he makes en route to his dying moments. Two more (...) general lessons are drawn: first, that we are all vulnerable to the mistakes Ivan makes, and second, that reflection on the quality of our lives does not present us with any obvious resources for coming to terms with our own deaths. (shrink)
This essay is a memorial tribute from one member of the Common Knowledge editorial board to another. Adam Michnik, a cofounder of the first dissident organization in East-Central Europe, writes about the details and the symbolic importance of his first meeting, in 1978 on Mt. Snĕžka, with Václav Havel, coorganizer of Charter 77. From his insider’s perspective, the author retells the history of dissent in communist Europe from that time until the Velvet Revolution and Havel’s election as president (...) of Czechoslovakia in 1989. He also assesses the impact of Havel’s work as a playwright and antipolitical essayist, but the emphasis of the essay falls on how Havel the man dealt with the disappointments he endured in political office, including the passage of “lustration” laws and the election of Václav Klaus as prime minister. The organizing principle of this essay is the distinction made by the Czech philosopher Jan Patočka between “great history” and “small history.” In periods of greatness, the Czechs led European civilization toward the path it would subsequently take; at other times, they withdrew into the “banality of provincialism.” This tribute to Havel ultimately argues that, after many decades of provincial Stalinism, Havel brought Czech history back to the path of greatness on which T. G. Masaryk had set it in the first part of the twentieth century. (shrink)
Este artículo presenta una interpretación hermenéutica/psicológica del cuento de hadas Zarevich Iván, el pájaro de fuego y el lobo a partir de la psicología analítica de Carl Gustav Jung y la metodología de interpretación diseñada por Marie Von Franz.
This essay, written in memory of the Chinese astrophysicist and dissident Fang Lizhi, reexamines the period in Fang's life when he was vice president of the University of Science and Technology of China and, because of his activities as an educational and political reformer, came to be dubbed “China's Andrei Sakharov.” It also retells, from the perspective of an insider, the dramatic narrative of Fang's year with his wife, Li Shuxian, living in the US embassy in Beijing following the Tiananmen (...) Square demonstrations and subsequent massacre. But the special focus of this overview of Fang's career is on his development as a thinker on questions of politics and human rights. Though Fang never returned to China and, while living in the United States, kept his distance from dissident movements, he continued to develop intellectually in ways that made him, in later life, China's Václav Havel. (shrink)
In this paper, Tyson E. Lewis challenges the dominant theoretical and practical educational responses to globalization. On the level of public policy, Lewis demonstrates the limitations of both neoliberal privatization and liberal calls for rehabilitating public schooling. On the level of pedagogy, Lewis breaks with the dominant liberal democratic tradition which focuses on the cultivation of democratic dispositions for cosmopolitan citizenship. Shifting focus, Lewis posits a new location for education out of bounds of the common sense of public versus private, (...) nationalism versus cosmopolitanism, inclusion versus exclusion, human versus civil rights. This is the space of the commonwealth whose actors cannot be identified as ‘citizens’ but are rather the anonymous multitude. In conclusion, Lewis finds a model for organizing this commonwealth in the work of Ivan Illich, whose learning networks speak to the urgent political and pedagogical need for exodus from the conceptual vocabulary that defines much of the contemporary field of educational theory. (shrink)
Several critics have maintained that there are some critical differences between the ethics of medicine and the ethics of business such that health care should remain as free as possible from the influence of business. In particular, it has been suggested that the core moral identity of those in medical practice, and their accompanying institutions, are not only antagonistic, but effectively opposed to their counterparts in business. This paper attempts to challenge such a sharp contrast and suggests that a reformulation, (...) where the two are seen as fundamentally similar is both appropriate and compelling. Indeed, as we contemplate the direction of proposed comprehensive reforms in health care, such an understanding of the moral framework of medicine and business is essential. (shrink)