A Person Is a Person through Other Persons

idea_sized-1280px-young_moe_paul_klee_1938_colored_paste_on_newspaper_on_burlap_-_phillips_collection_-_dsc04935.jpg“According to Ubuntu philosophy, which has its origins in ancient Africa, a newborn baby is not a person. People are born without ‘ena’, or selfhood, and instead must acquire it through interactions and experiences over time. So the ‘self’/‘other’ distinction that’s axiomatic in Western philosophy is much blurrier in Ubuntu thought. As the Kenyan-born philosopher John Mbiti put it in African Religions and Philosophy (1975): ‘I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am.’”


“Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin believed that […] by ‘looking through the screen of the other’s soul,’ he wrote, ‘I vivify my exterior.’ Selfhood and knowledge are evolving and dynamic; the self is never finished – it is an open book. […] Being is an act or event that must happen in the space between the self and the world.”

SOURCE: Birhane, Abeba. “Descartes Was Wrong: ‘a Person Is a Person through Other Persons.’” Aeon

Learning a Second Language Isn’t Just Good for Your Brain—It’s Good for Democracy, Too


“The impact that shifting languages can have on us reveals how central it is to our identities and social connections. In a series of intriguing studies, Boaz Keysar and his colleagues at the University of Chicago have shown that when speaking a second language, people tend to behave more rationally. In our native languages, we’re somewhat stuck in our habits, and likely to be susceptible to classic cognitive biases. But the more thoughtful effort that is required to speak a second language helps elevate us into more rational territory.”

SOURCE: Cook, Ed. “Learning a Second Language Isn’t Just Good for Your Brain—It’s Good for Democracy, Too.” Quartz.

Is the Many Worlds Hypothesis Just a Phantasy?

fullsizerender“The Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) has a striking parallel in analytic philosophy that goes by the name of modal realism. Ever since Gottfried Leibniz argued that the problem of good and evil can be resolved by postulating that ours is the best of all possible worlds, the notion of ‘possible worlds’ has supplied philosophers with a scheme for debating the issue of the necessity or contingency of truths.”

SOURCE: Ball, Phillip. “Too Many Worlds.” Aeon.

Translation – and Migration – Is the Lifeblood of Culture

4320Culture is not a purely national business. I work as a poet and translator and would find it inconceivable to read Chaucer without being aware of the figures of Dante and Boccaccio in the background, or Shakespeare without Plutarch. Or indeed TS Eliot (himself an immigrant to the UK) without referring to 100 texts from other states in other languages. This form of internationalism is the lifeblood of art. It is rootless, it is cosmopolitan, and it is free thinking.”

SOURCE: Szirtes, George. “Translation – and Migration – Is the Lifeblood of Culture.” The Guardian.

The Free Flow of Scientific Information Is Critical for Democracy

64d1689c-f1a6-40f6-8bb8601cca863649“Consider, for a moment, the word ‘media.’ The media mediate between sources of information and the public. They make decisions about what is most important and relevant to readers (since no one has time to keep up with all the science being done at federal agencies, or even one agency). They translate from the technical to the accessible. They place science in larger social and political contexts, and they hold institutions accountable when they try to manipulate or suppress scientific results for political reasons. No other institution in our society is capable of fulfilling all these roles. For this reason, free and open access to government scientists must remain open, even—indeed, especially—when scientists’ results challenge the government’s political outlook.”

SOURCE: Popkin, Gabriel. “The Free Flow of Scientific Information Is Critical for Democracy.” Scientific American.

Blue History

Cultural and postcolonial theorists find radical potential in the idea that the ocean keeps track of history and calls us to recount and record it. For many scientists, too, the ocean’s role as a record of history allows it to be studied in truly global ways. In this perhaps unlikely resonance of scientific and postcolonial thought, there emerges what I call the ocean archive: a record of life on Earth, formed and filtered through marine dynamics, and only available to us in partial and unpredictable ways.”

fullsizerender4“In an era of climate change and capitalist globalization, it is easy to make local dynamics and relations subservient to larger-scale imaginaries. How can we speak of a “global environment” when it is experienced in frequently unequal and exploitative ways? The challenge is to build upon this resonance in the ocean archive and question it in order to rethink the relationship between planetary natural history and the ravages of unequal human experience.”

SOURCE: Lehman, Jessica. “Blue History.” The New Inquiry.