Monday, April 25, 2016
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
The Story of Philosophy - from antiquity to the present,
By Christopher Delius and Matthias Gatzemeier, Deniz Sertcan, Kathleen Wunscher. Konemann publishers.
I thought to myself, now here is a book that might fill a few gaps as the topic of philosophy is not one I am well up on, only coming across the various quotes from the personalities that have contributed to its history, no context or clearly defined development of the philosophical thought process.
It started well, Classical Antiquity, with the Greeks and the very title, from Myth to Logos and the first words of ‘philosophical wonder meaning our amazement at inexplicable phenomena, giving rise to questions of origins, causes. This immediately bringing in myth, also brought about by quizzical pondering, seeking explanations in the very earliest of our species’ days.
The transition from Myth to Logos marked by the difference between the narrative language of stories of gods and heroes versus rational thought to give voice to explanations for things. That was a worthy start. The names of gods used metaphorically, re-interpreting the myths allegorically.
Though I ploughed through the work and was quite taken by it, seeing all those names that I had had thrust upon me from time to time, the deeper into the writing the less unsure everything became.
With the introduction of the term epistemology - the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and origin of knowledge - it was as if I could not quite focus on the matters at hand, as if they were becoming more diffuse instead of revealing a definite development and clarity. There was so much opposition and disagreement among the protagonists.
Coming to Roman Philosophy Cicero denied the possibility of absolutely assured knowledge, while ‘demanding precise examination of one’s own judgements by carefully weighing up all possible arguments’. He seemed to be something of a Confucian seeing an ideal life in a synthesis of philosophy and rhetoric and always in the service of the state which he defined as an association based on legal consensus and community of interest, plus he spoke of moral dignity.
Leaving aside the variants cluttering the path of philosophy as it ‘developed’ this latter about sums-up what was worthwhile holding onto as at least it was useful and with that we come to the Middle Ages.
It was learned that in Europe, or the West, from the fourth century on for one thousand years, the major thrust of learning and holding onto it fell to the churches or more correctly the monasteries with St Benedict central to monasticism.
To the East, Constantinople flourished, but that’s another story as in the book under study the theme is more European, or Christo-European. It was only when Constantine decreed that Christianity should be given equal status with the Pagan religions that a paradigm shift began taking place with Christianity taking over and becoming the only acceptable mode of thought.
The Ancient World theories had to be reconciled with Christian teaching, the old blended with the new on the one hand because it was politically demanded and on the other because the mind-set was moulded by all that had been thought and exchanged prior to the emergence of Christianity’s insistence that God - thus priests and the Church - lay at the foundation of everything. This was something of a retreat, of the Logos losing out to Myth - Myth taken as myth, in its lesser sense.
The scholar Aurelius Augustinus, St Augustine, bridged the epochal gap somewhat as, although he too viewed the whole of existence as of divine origin, and, as with neo-platonism evil for him was simply the negation of good, it had no independent existence. ‘Truth dwells in the inner person’ he held, seeing Rational Man or Reasonable Man as a man of true faith as different from blind faith.
This attitude or stance could amalgamate revealed truth with philosophical truth as both were set in wonder, both ecstatic. This must have assisted St Thomas Aquinas who sought a synthesis between theology and philosophy, one resting on faith the other on reason. Reason though was a limited approach to truth for Aquinas, the meaning of the Trinity or the Incarnation was placed in the sphere of revelation, inspired thought. This takes the ideas back to St Augustine who accepted that access to the divine, to God, was possible through Enlightenment, an illuminated human understanding.
Taking this sense of things William of Occam (of Occam’s Razor fame) came up short denying the possibility of access to immediate knowledge of the Divine, a person can only have faith in God but not knowledge. His stance gave rise to the terms intuitive knowledge and abstract knowledge. Occam paved the way for the ‘modern or new way’ (via Moderna) while the contrary old way (via Antiqua), held some inertial interest but the former won out among later philosophical schools.
Thus we arrived at the Renaissance when the post-medieval system of states was well established, the Enlightenment was a buzzword and affairs of Church and State were much better differentiated with the Sciences - and technology - playing an independent role.
Printing humanised scholarship; guns put an end to the culture of Knights; oceanic travellers brought an awareness of other lands. Art developed beyond the flat screen paintings of yore. In terms of philosophy the book we are basing these comments on (The Story of Philosophy) seems to meld other associated practices around the subject rather than tackle them head on.
The term humanism came into its own over the period, the human being central to all affairs as per universalistic humanism in this 21st century. This was best highlighted by Erasmus of Rotterdam with his open-ended tolerance where he brought together the contradictory stances of Antiquity and Christianity.
Nicholas of Cusa in his writing On Conscious Ignorance confessed the incomprehensibility of the infinity, of God, and brings this ‘negative insight’ to ground with a definition... “If infinity is the totally ‘alien’ aspect of the created world and of individual things, the ‘absolute’ in contrast to the relative, then it cannot be approached with the logical apparatus...” - in the Absolute the opposites are reconciled, not opposed. For Nicholas Cusa, though reason may not be able to understand the absolute, at least it can ‘touch’ the absolute.
Marsilio Ficino and Cosimo de Medici both ran with what can be called a re-interpretation of Neo-Platonism which dealt with the integrating power of a ‘Platonic Theology’ or ‘philosophical religion’. Pico della Mirandola in his speech On Human Dignity reveals Man as a totally free and undetermined being, a huge statement with tremendous implications and future.
By this time philosophy was loosening its hold as a totalising term over the sciences and it was the domain of the physical sciences that first declared independence and in this way philosophy - which was concerned with fundamental assumptions - became once-removed. Greater mind’s such as Newton, held onto the wider concept as told by the title of his major work: Mathematical Principals of Natural Philosophy.
“The immediate unity of Man and Nature, or the Cosmos, as experienced by the Renaissance, was thus abolished” the writing declares.... “...the mystic ribbon, linking the meanings of things, human understanding, and the divine order,” it concluded.
Descartes laid the foundation for 17th-century continental rationalism, later advocated by Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Leibniz, and opposed by the empiricist school of thought. From another source Descarte says: "of all the ideas that are in me, the idea that I have of God is the most true, the most clear and distinct." Descartes considered himself to be a devout Catholic; but the Catholic Church prohibited his books in 1663.
However, the philosophical stage was taken by the likes of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, John Locke, Bishop George Berkeley (Bishop of Cloyne), David Hume and other empiricists, and it was not till Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel arrives that some credibility is given to the more intuitive understanding of life itself, human life, and the domain of the divine is brought back into affairs.
However, despite Hegel’s writings it was the last straw as, though he was a graduate of a Protestant seminary, his thoughts stood out from the theologies of the Enlightenment era. But according to Hegel himself, his philosophy was consistent with Christianity.
By the time Galileo got his hands on a telescope there was a lot of discussion about what was the centre of things, was it the Earth or a once-removed pivot, and his proposal was so upsetting to the Church beset then with the Inquisition (1633), he was made to recant his stated findings. He had contradicted the scholastic Christian tradition. The Jesuits led the Counter-Reformation - a reaction to Protestantism rather than a reform movement.
It is in these pages that I found difficulty in seeing just where philosophy was to be found. What with all the argument and counter-argument among the various personalities and schools of thought. Not the book’s fault, this was the puzzle of the times and no one was outside of the interesting mess of problems - but thoughts such as ‘what is the meaning of life’ did not seem to be directly broached.
That is, until Rene Descartes was introduced with... “the theory of knowledge and experience proceeded from the “I”, from thought and its form; subject and object part company, and the subject is defined as the original location of certainty.” This prepared the way in later epochs to make conscious self-reference its absolute foundation,” The Story of Philosophy declares.
However, the ‘two substances’ of Descartes were better seen by Spinoza as a singleness with dual expressions, bringing in his “God or Nature” proposal to resolve this. Leibniz too rejected the dualism of Descarte’s substances, and constructed his own metaphysical system bringing about a universal accommodation of the individual with the whole. His memorable stance was that this is the best of all possible worlds and he seen a harmonious perfection that included the imperfections. There was no evil-in-itself; ‘the whole of existence represents the optimum fulfillment of merely possible existences in real existence.’
However, leaving Leibniz behind after encountering Locke, Berkeley, and Hume all matters discussed seem to descend into minutia. The mind of this reader faltered and holding interest became difficult; and in the case of the philosophers it was as if they were trapped in the intricacies of their own thoughts and they were going around in circles.
When it came to Feuerbach, he had resolved the subject and object dichotomy; the concept of the ‘object’ in general was mediated by the concept of ‘You’, the ‘objective ego’. “Only when I am transformed from an ‘I’ to a ‘You’ , when I ‘suffer’, that is, am passively the object of another’s perception, does the notion of ‘an objectivity existing outside of me’ arise. ‘The ‘ego’ Feuerbach suggests, had to be a ‘You’ before it could become an “I’.
“The secret of theology is anthropology” was Feuerbach’s way of putting it... “But this is also a matter of individual experience, and of understanding ‘being’ not abstractly, but ‘being as the object of itself,’ that is, of the particular individual human existence.”
Marx as an enthusiast for Feuerbach’s writings saw reality as a structure of processes in which Man and his or her environment inseparably condition each other, as a product of practical activity (praxis) that is to say as something that is produced... he grasps the essence of ‘labour’ and understands objective Man., who is true because he is real, as the product of his own labour. Whereas Hegel was principally concerned with processes of consciousness not with labour as concrete activity,” explain the writers of The Story of Philosophy. Marx argued that the starting point must be the actual conditions of labour, and the relations of production.
This way of thinking of Marx reflected back on the feudal medieval order with its lack of freedoms, in which among other things the ownership of land and serfs was decisive, as it is to modern capitalism, which is linked to ownership of the means of production and the ownership and sale of a person’s labour. Then came Marx’s concern and explanations of ideologies in terms of antagonisms within historical conditions of class conflict.
Seeking a point of view not covered in The Story of Philosophy there is Rodolfo Mondolfo who explains that: "In reality, if we examine historical materialism without prejudice, just as it is given us in Marx's and Engels' texts, we have to recognize that it is not a materialism but rather a true humanism, [and] that it places the idea of man at the center of every consideration, every discussion. It is a realistic humanism (Reale Humanismus), as its own creators called it, which wishes to consider man in his effective and concrete reality, to comprehend his existence in history, and to comprehend history as a reality produced by man through activity, labor, social action, down through the centuries in which there gradually occurs the formation and transformation of the environment in which man lives, and in which man himself gradually develops, as simultaneously cause and effect of all historical evolution....” (See: Dictionary of Humanism, by Silo.)
Husserl is next to introduce a topic of import and interest with his insight that consciousness was ‘intentionally’ structured, not a passive perception, but a purposeful act. This was phenomenology, which took on the cloak of existentialism in France. Perception transcends the dualism of mind and body, because perceptible objects can ultimately only be understood in relation to a subject which intervenes physically in the world.
Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers and Jean-Paul Sartre were the core existentialists. Now the philosophical quest was simply, “What is Being?”, admitting that this is the vocation of the activist-poet rather than that of the philosopher. Being for itself was distinguished from Being in itself.
Bertrand Russell who applied logical analysis to natural language pushed the development of logical positivism. Point being, for the particular person to declare for that particular self an understanding of the world in words (thoughts or images). Out comes the obvious...that ‘there is no single correct description of the world, rather, which description is correct depends on which language is being used’...’the meaning of a word is the way it is used’ - the social convention of correct usage.
It had become apparent via the writing of such as the Hungarian Georg Lukacs and Max Weber that a distinctive feature of modern society was the process of progressive rationalisation where people were no longer guided by communal values but only by self-interest - which Lukacs described as reification - modern man seeing himself and others as ‘things’. This can be traced back to the spread of wage labour and a capitalist economic system - thus any revolution it was hoped would put an end to both capitalism and reification.
The result given the influences and general mentality of the progressing times was the ‘liberal democracies of the twentieth century with all the social problems arising owing to the ‘colonisation of the life-world’ by the System. The System as the invasion of the private sphere and public life by money and power and the institutionalisation of these influences as part of the controlling structure of governance.
That was the setting for structuralism which was opposed to humanism as per Sartre, who allotted a central position to the human being; denying that, saying that it is an illusion created by those anonymous processes of the modern age (the System) - where a person thinks he or she is thinking for himself-herself.
Thus The Story of Philosophy comes to an end... one is left speechless and thoughtless. It is a writing (likely intentionally) without conclusion but, as it is also without any wrap-up final paragraphs one more-or-less just falls off the plank into the deep-end.
Well, there is that final This Is Not a Pipe sidebar... the painting only represents a pipe, so it’s true, it’s not a pipe. But what is really revealed is the emptiness of the state of mind that has got intellectually stuck, one has to revert to the immediacy of Marx, to Sartre, to the cultural anthropology studies which were, interestingly, referenced by the South American writer-thinker-activist Silo who allows us to leap over that abyss and this writer here provides a more reasonable conclusion proper to any consideration about Philosophy, its history and intent - see how a chap can change from such humble early paragraphs!
Silo’s ‘starts’ with Franz Brentano in relation to intentionality - though the frame is studies in psychology rather than philosophy. Moving onto Husserl, Silo states that this, “... places us in the field of eidetic reduction, and though innumerable insights may be drawn from his works, our interest here is oriented toward themes that are proper to a phenomenological psychology rather than to phenomenological philosophy.” In these remarks Silo is introducing his Space of Representation theme (See Contributions to Thought, Psychology of the Image).
The writings of C.G. Jung, Mirce Eliade, James Frazer, Bronislaw Malinowski, etc also draw Silo’s interest in matters that lie outside the mainstream realm of orthodox philosophical studies. For Silo censorship and self-censorship were abhorrent; and to escape - for himself and like-minded friends and indeed anyone - from the strident censorship of the recent and present times.
Just as the works of Marks-Engels brought Lenin to provoke the down-to-earth works of socialism, Silo as activist-philosopher planted his feet firmly on the ground and with his many colleagues established a swathe of cultural-social-political organisations and latterly, the Parks of Studies and Reflection on different continents - absolutely flying-in-the-face of the stuck-in-a-rut Nihilism most rampant in European thought but general in Western thought - and he-we (Silo et al) did so expressly to create ambits of deep and open communication moving forward.
Silo seen the signs telling of another way of thinking that was unfolding, a completely different way - and the story of philosophy was also unfolding. Not in seeking an intellectual truth but establishing coherent humanly friendly and accommodating relations among the various peoples. Doing - personal, familial, political, social, technological, environmental, spiritual things - Being is Doing and Doing is Being.
Amplified Being nurtures awareness and the quality of consciousness and that brings meaning into play and a valid feeling of fulfillment and that’s where non-violence stems from, as an active stance towards life. Knowledge is given by wholesome experience, and understanding increases - there is delight in life - the only possible conclusion and intent of philosophy and our human here-abouts-ness.
Friday, May 29, 2015
Newsletter of Universalist Humanism - Hong Kong, SAR, China - Vol III, Number 3 - June 2015
Gardening as a Craft - revamped
Pressenza - appeal for volunteers
Humanist Association of Hong Kong - local issues
Self Liberation - study programed
Link to Jimmy Reid’s speech
The "Gardening as a Craft" project is being taken a step further while continuing with its aim, to see if a nucleus of co-operating friends can form, that can eventually mature into a Centre of Study group, seeking in the longer term to found a Park of Study and Reflection: China.
As a group we carried out a Painting for Peace and Non-Violence event near Mui Wo beach, Lantau, and the display of Filipino student’s works on this theme proved a useful vehicle for raising exchanges on the theme.
We also need to build the Pressenza Hong Kong bureau team so willing journalists or would-be journalists are most welcome. Pressenza is an international press agency run by volunteers producing news on Peace and Non Violence, presently available in five languages.
The Humanist Association of Hong Kong is to look into local issues, which is working on society for its betterment while on the Association’s more ‘internal’ side we are launching a programed of studies of Self Liberation, see below for details. Readers may or may not be aware that our way of working proposes change on the outer and the inner aspects of the person as human being.
Lastly, Roey of Chopwell placed a link to a Scottish unionist in very timely manner on here Facebook page, and that link is placed at the very end of this newsletter.
Peace, Force and Joy
Gardening as a Craft
This project began December 13, on a Saturday, in 2014 and we decided Sunday was better so it was held each Sunday, pretty much every Sunday, since then. Now it is the end of May 2015. That’s a good five months.
Evaluating progress so far sees that a change is needed because as it is, the way we do things, has proved too loose. The days have been useful and enjoyable, but given my personal aim - where I identify with defined aims of my friends who have built Message communities (the message of Peace and Non Violence) - which was supposed to translate into a group aim, things are not moving adequately.
Our world is in a precarious state and there are troubles everywhere. People engaged in the daily routine are ignoring major trends, like the continued developing and interest in nuclear weapons; like the fact money has taken over complete societies and is given primary consideration in all affairs; like power is in the hands of small numbers of elite who are not placing the general welfare of others on their agendas; like the media is either frightening everyone daily with broadcasts about wars and conflicts or it is absorbing people’s attention with hypnotic entertainment - both working together to render folks feeling helpless or at least that it is not worthwhile trying to do anything.
There is a way out, actually, it is a way through, and its all about engagement. Engaging in the necessary task of changing things, personally and socially. This is done by amplifying awareness - not just with more information or knowledge but by Being more.
To understand things we have to be alive to the reality of our human life on this Earth. This entails seeing. Closed minds don’t see the Big Picture and unwittingly are part of the problem.
Thus the proposal to Garden as a means of seeing ourselves in action as a group (there are others ‘means’) but this entails a minimum of persons acting together (the group) and sharing that aim of ‘waking each other up’ even when that ‘waking up’ is something of an unknown.
Those wanting to be part of the group will have to let me know.
Further notes from the original proposal
Here is a project of building up a productive garden yet done from the point of view of a ‘craft’.
A craft in the sense used here teaches one internal proportion, and how to do things in a balanced way. Also, the value of giving priority, as some things are more important than others. In the activities we will go acquiring internal proportion, thanks to this external work and the attending attitude accompanying it. Order is established externally - the garden - and personally, while at the same time reaching for permanence.
A craft then in our case has a special meaning: to engage in an activity to gain a certain personal tone in the activity, to do this with a certain permanence, and care, so as to bring about a state of mind of engaged detachment. This is the mental counterpart to the physical work, that goes in accompaniment, while gardening.
The aim is to develop a garden and simultaneously, a personal centre of gravity, plus, a group awareness where each holds their place and adds to the whole. It is not just an individual thing, but a collective endeavour and another aim is to have that register among those taking part - a group intelligence which builds on the individual but goes beyond it.
An Introduction to Silo
appeal for assistance continued
Translation of “An Introduction to Silo’s - a new writing of already published works as a selected anthology to introduce Silo to readers unfamiliar with his works and thoughts.
This is a project where help from proficient translators from English into Chinese is needed. Richard Yu, Swallow and Stephie are so far taking up the work but it’s quite a specialised work really so care is needed and the more volunteers engaged in the project the lighter the work all together. So do get in touch if you have expertise and interest to be involved in an activity of worth.
The structure of the book "Introduction to Silo" will be:
1. Silo, his life and his work.
2. Silo's Message - this part already translated.
3. Influence of Silo. Productions. News in the media.*
4. Studies inspired by Silo. Authors.
We are seeking journalists or would-be journalists to join the Hong Kong team at Pressenza, do get in touch if you want to be part of this useful and most interesting work.
New and old members welcome - see webpage
Self Liberation Studies
Humanist Association of Hong Kong members, also, Community of Silo’s Message members which includes those taking part in Gardening as a Craft, free-of-charge; others by arrangement.See
Terrace Gardening - recommended video suitable for Hong Kong and tropical gardening on rooftops
#####If the lead article of this newsletter is a bit short on specifics, what better than to link the reader to a speech by Jimmy Reid, the Clydeside trade union activist who died in 2010, who was an inspiring orator. This speech, delivered on his inauguration as rector of Glasgow University in 1972. It’s as if he is speaking for us today.
Newsletter Contact details:
To contact the editor of this newsletter:
tonyhen @ humanist.org.hk
Thursday, November 13, 2014
G/F, 49 Kau Tsuen, Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Newsletter of Universalistic Humanism - Hong Kong, SAR, China - Vol III, Number 1 - November 2014
Editorial - page 1
The Movement - chart - page 3
Hong Kong - government not above the law - page 3
Discovering the Human - page 4
Silo’s work - chart - page 7
Day 40 of Occupy Central in Hong Kong... concerned about the young people so earnestly camped out at the various protest sites, Admiralty, the main site; Mong Kok, the most fearful site; and Causeway Bay. I find it is difficult to comment as it’s the occupiers who are ‘on the line’ and endangering themselves. Opinion and support in this territory is divided, at times vehemently and with the troublesomeness of tending violence, but brave souls take it upon themselves to become buffers to that violence, as if swallowing it.
I don't agree with the Occupy Central campaign as proposed by Benny Tai and his pals from academia and the business world but when the students took over things changed, interesting... I didn't agree to ask CE to resign as another twit would get in just no different, but the dynamics have changed, lot's of people on the street, very interesting what is going on now - I am surprised by it...
I am very pleased with the youth and their supporters among the people and laugh to see the disarray among the pro-dem politicians. Hong Kong needs to become more socialist oriented and move away from rank Capitalism. I don't trust the motives of all these high rank institutionalised-politicised Christians, from Mr Zen to Mr Lee Chuk Yan.
It is simplistic to try to explain the situation without taking into account China, this country that dragged itself up by its own bootlaces, a herculean and yes, impossible task, but done!
This great but abused country that licked its wounds and now economically torments its wounders - the European nations and the USA, and Japan.
The delicate task of resolving this surprising turn of events that have so many camping out in the streets and puzzling the presumed powers here as to a solution.
It is clear no one wants a ‘crackdown’ as that could have taken places already, in that reserve we witness a new moment in Chinese affairs - it’s not like the west’s rumours always insists, what we see is the great heart of China.
The challenge is for the Hong Kong authorities to deal with it from their human experience. Not political or factional ideas but seeing what is going on in a more comprehensive sense - in the minds of all those protesters, young and old.
What do they want? They want freedom and the conditions of freedom. They want a government system that works to the majority good and many have seen beyond the falseness of this present formal democracy. Just as in China there is the formality of Communism.
Consider this, a dog is called a dog because of convention, it could have been a cat and a cat a dog, but willy-nilly we have all agreed on this is a dog and that is a cat. This does not change the disposition of the dog, nor the cat. Does not matter what a system is called, does it work, that’s the question.
What is needed is wide participation of as many people as possible in all the various affairs of Hong Kong - to speak only of this territory. There needs to be full transparency in general affairs. A levelling has to take place and one example of this is government committees have got to change the elitist practise of the same people taking roles in all the top positions in important committees either serially or simultaneously.
As a fellow humanist has stated recently: “The subjugation of humanity is always a source of violence and we must warn that such subjugation always begins with the degradation of humanity, whether subtle or coarse. Hence there is no other way to discover the human but to place it as the central value and of social concern, giving every human being without distinction of any kind, without delays, or justification, the option to reach their highest dignity and fulfilment: being happy, helpful and free.” ***
Peace, Force and Joy
Javier Tolcachier, during the first session of the International Symposium “Towards the discovery of the Human”, organised by the World Centre of Humanist Studies, Latin American chapter, in Santiago, at the premises of the Chilean National Parliament. (See below for full statement) - also on http://www.pressenza.com/2014/11/discovering-human/
Hong Kong - government not above the law
"Do protesters using civil disobedience to promote democracy and better secure Hong Kong's core values pose the risks to the rule of law that officials and pro-government lawyers claim?" This an important question posed by Professor Michael C. Davis, of the University of Hong Kong, who specialises in constitutional law and human rights.
He says it is important to distinguish between breaking the law and undermining the rule of law. "The non-violent protesters have clearly broken the law by not complying with the Public Order Ordinance and, further, by not clearing those areas covered by court orders. Both are purposeful law-breaking in furtherance of a non-violent civil disobedience campaign. We should bear in mind that civil disobedience by definition involves breaking the law in support of a higher ideal that is the aim of the civil disobedience campaign."
He notes that the scales shift heavily against any protesters on the street employing violence and the police would be duty-bound to protect other protesters from such violent attacks.
Not all law-breaking effectively undermines the rule of law, he continues, the case for civil disobedience not doing so may be especially high when the civil disobedience itself is non-violent and reasonably confined, and is a protest against the government undermining democracy or the rule of law.
In his considered opinion the white paper and the National People's Congress Standing Committee decision call the government's adherence to basic principles of the rule of law into question. The white paper, claiming that sole authority over the Basic Law resides in the central government and comprehensive jurisdiction in the NPC Standing Committee, appears to abandon Hong Kong's internationally guaranteed "high degree of autonomy" and put the Standing Committee above the law.
In his winding up argument he sees that the failure of the local government to guard Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy and its seemingly complicit role in the Standing Committee's decision implicates it as well.
"The pro-democracy civil disobedience campaign aims to correct this situation by putting in place a government that will better represent Hong Kong people. Such a government may be more responsive to local concerns and better guard Hong Kong's high level of autonomy. Beijing and Hong Kong officials might be persuaded that such a circumstance may be more favourable in an open society such as Hong Kong than the contentious situation their policies now encourage."
Discussion on the academic level on this matter have identified the lack of democracy as one of the conditions that support a degree of legitimacy for civil disobedience.
So, Davis states... overall, there is a good case to argue that the two recent Beijing decisions and related policies present a greater threat to the rule of law than does the civil disobedience campaign. But when protests are a product of poorly considered government policies, the way out is for the government to change the policies. In this context, leadership by those in government, or if not, by those close to the government or Beijing, will be crucial to turn around the failed policies and better represent Hong Kong concerns. The lack of such leadership vision explains a lot about the current impasse and threats to Hong Kong's rule of law.
Full article on South China Morning Post November 8, 2014
Tony's humanist blog:
Discovering the Human
We publish here the presentation by Javier Tolcachier during the first session of the International Symposium “Towards the discovery of the Human”, organised by the World Centre of Humanist Studies, Latin American chapter, in Santiago, at the premises of the Chilean National Parliament.
“We thank the organisers for the opportunity to be here with you in this attempt to understand ourselves a little more, to learn more about ourselves. I thank you all for being here. Without your presence, our presence here would be pointless. I start in this way, rather bluntly, to focus and present an inescapable human trait, intersubjectivity.
This interpersonal and social way of being in the world is not merely about coexisting in separate still spaces together. On the contrary, intersubjectivity is a structure such that any changes to its interior transforms us, everything that moves in it, moves us.
This simple verification is temporarily clouded by an individualistic system that leads us to believe that each of us is absolutely independent, that our life is something exclusive and private. This sterile belief, whose evidences of inhumanity are apparent show us by the absurd that the human resides on the opposite side, in the connection with others, interdependence and solidarity. But this truth, as we shall see, is still partial and not enough to fully define what is human.
Before continuing with the presentation, it is necessary that we introduce to one another, and as the one standing here and talking I will be trying to look at things from the perspective of New Humanism or Universalist Humanism, it is imperative, then, to introduce the founder of this movement, the Master Silo.
In this very house, more than fourteen years ago, on the occasion of the founding ceremony of the Latin American Humanist Regional, our Italian Siloist friend Salvatore Puledda drew an emotional and very complete portrait of this extraordinary human being. Apart from enumerating some of the contributions from Silo to different fields of knowledge for the sake of a humanising transformation, he highlighted among his attributes the kindness, patience, good humour and compassion that characterised him. After describing Silo as a global thinker and mentioning his intellectual audacity and revolutionary drive, he ended this tribute by saying: “Silo is a guide, an initiated, someone who has a key to open the door to the world of the spirit.”
If anything can be added, we say that Silo is the living proof of how human actions can transcend, largely exceeding the narrow margins of corporeal existence. So, we welcome and thank the work of the Master, very much alive and present in this room!
In this city, on May 23, 1991, on the occasion of presenting his thought and literary work, perhaps alluding critically to the still prevailing Aristotelian view of the social and rational animal, Silo explained:
“For me it is insufficient the definition of man by his sociability as this does not make the distinction with numerous species; nor his capacity for work is characteristic, compared against the most powerful animals; even language defined in his essence, because we know codes and forms of communication between different animals. However, as each new human being finds themselves with a world changed by others and is constituted by such intentional world, I discover their ability to build and incorporate the temporal; I discover their historical and social dimension, not just social. As things stand, I can attempt a definition by saying: “Humans are historical beings whose mode of social action transforms their own nature” (end of the quote).
In another referential work, known as “About the Human”, Silo writes: “Well then, what is it that defines what is human as such, if not the reflection of the socio-historical as personal memory? Every animal is always the first animal, while every human being is his or her historical and social environment, along with a reflection of, and a contribution to, the transformation or inertia of that environment” (End of the quote).
But how can someone think about something? Let us amplify the problem: How can a being think about himself? And further still, how is that the same being can reflect on this matter of self-reflection?
To make this possible, there exists a need of a look that observes and something that is looked at by it. Unquestionably, we have to have a perspective between what is seen and the act of seeing, a distance. Thus we discover human interiority, that internal space in which all these phenomena operate.
And if the space exists, it will have different levels and depths. If we intend to discover what is human, we will have to remove what smudges our humanity; we must unveil it, opening any veil threatening to obscure it.
In this course, surely related to eidetic and transcendental reductions so dear to Platonism and phenomenology, we can immerse ourselves endlessly into the folds of our own humanity, perhaps reaching our essential Being. This path, perhaps complex in appearance, was made available by Silo to every human being with a simple question that anyone can ask daily. “Do not let your life pass by without asking: Who am I?” It is a suggestion that confronts us with the evidence of our interiority, suddenly clearing the illusion of confusion about what is human that reduces it to mere physicality.
In that inner spatiality, we see how the memory of the human process emerges with the force of centuries, the historical accumulation that successive generations have built and which is already part of ourselves in the very moment we are born. As we dive into the experience of temporality, we see emerge an even stronger certainty. Our life is oriented toward the future. The intentionality that characterises our consciousness tends permanently towards an endless search of mental objects to satiate the thirst for growth and evolution. In this projection, overcoming difficulties and resistances, we find the need for freedom from oppressive conditions, overcoming pain and suffering, and rebellion against finitude as the most prominent motor. I then ask: Where am I going, where are we going?
In that journey from the natural and conditioned to the creative and indeterminate, I see the emergence of transforming beings that also become transformed by their actions. I see also emerge that horizon that gives meaning to human life, that in us which moves towards freedom.
Violence is the denial of the possibility of such liberation in the other and in oneself. Violence, which still exists, shows us that we are a species still in process that will find a higher destiny by rejecting, resisting, discarding and surpassing the violent act. Violence in any form is the expression of antihumanism. The subjugation of humanity is always a source of violence and we must warn that such subjugation always begins with the degradation of humanity, whether subtle or coarse.
Hence there is no other way to discover the human but to place it as the central value and social concerns, giving every human being without distinction of any kind, without delays, or justification, the option to reach their highest dignity and fulfilment: being happy, helpful and free.
To the human in us, then, I address these beautiful words by Silo, “I sense in you the liberty and the possibility of your constituting yourself as a human being, and in you my acts find the liberty at which they aim. And so, not even your death can halt the actions you set in motion, because you are in essence time and liberty.
What I love in the human being, then, is its growing humanization. And in these times of crisis, reification, and dehumanization, I love the possibility of the human being’s future vindication. “
That is all, thank you very much.
World Centre of Humanist Studies
To contact editor of this newsletter:
tonyhen @ humanist.org.hk
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Friday, November 7, 2014
Hong Kong protests update
Remember, it’s a pro-Hong Kong Movement
Hong Kong: seventeen years and nothing…
Hong Kong protests Sunday 12 October Admiralty-Queensway
Hong Kong, Beijing, seeking a way through
Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution
Remember, it’s a pro-Hong Kong Movement
Hong Kong: seventeen years and nothing…
Hong Kong protests Sunday 12 October Admiralty-Queensway
Hong Kong, Beijing, seeking a way through
Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution
Saturday, October 11, 2014
Monday, October 6, 2014
Scenes from Sunday October 5 - Hong Kong protests:
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To see captions the user has to first click full screen, then click the show info link.