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Escritos Visita Papa Francisco a Colombia 2017
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Screen Shot 2017-09-25 at 6.23.02 PM
 
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Texto completo. Rueda de Prensa del Papa Francisco en vuelo a Roma
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Deja el Papa a la Bogotá que nos vio nacer, deja a una ciudadanía –la violenta sobretodo— que debe entender que su violencia no hace sino hacerle daño a todos y a todas. La macabra del Bronx, incluida. La pobreza no lo permite todo.

Pero difícil. Un ejemplo, de muchos.

Hacia el 2002 sufrimos nuestro segundo mal-llamado “paseo millonario” en Bogotá. Les ahorraré los detalles más horribles, tal vez los relate luego. Pero lo cierto es que una vez en el taxi y “encañonado” por ambos lados en el asiento trasero –mirando para abajo para no ver la cara de los conciudadanos tan, pero tan, enfermos en su alma— pasamos por el puente de la 68 con 30. Desde el puente se ve el cementerio de Chapinero. Por un momento miré de reojo a los asaltantes, no sé ni por qué, pero vi lo que no hubiera deseado ver jamás.

Todos, con armas en mano, se persignaron.

¿Me entiende?

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Ahora sí que el Papa Francisco parte, veremos para qué lado se reconcilia Colombia. (!)
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Tin tin tin, y arranca el Primer Round cortesía del objetivo Espectador.
 
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La honestidad del Papa Francisco acerca de su limitada comprensión del ámbito político:

“De verdad, no entiendo el mundo de la geopolítica. Es muy fuerte para mí. Creo que, con lo que veo, hay una lucha de intereses que, se me escapa, no lo puedo explicar, de verdad. Pero lo otro importante: no se toma conciencia. Pienso en Cartagena hoy: ¿Esto es justo? ¿Se puede tomar conciencia?”

Un ejemplo sería el siguiente: sus repetidas solicitudes a la ONU para que sea la ONU quien “solucione” ciertos problemas políticos actuales.

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Quien haya seguido la visita del Papa Francisco con cierto entusiasmo debiera preguntarse —–e intentar responder lo mejor posible para sí mismo/a—– cuál es la posible relación entre estas tres memorables frases del Papa:

1. “Basta con una persona buena para que haya esperanza”

2. “No nos quedemos en dar el primer paso, sino que sigamos caminando juntos para ir al encuentro del otro”

3. ““No se dejen robar la alegría, no se dejen robar la esperanza”

Tal vez intentemos nosotros dar cierta luz al respecto, posteriormente. Una vista, así sea mínima, debiera mostrar al lector/a qué tan complejo sería interrelacionar estas tres frases.


A manera de ejemplo, pregúntese:
¿Por qué quien es el “único” bueno, debe dar el primer paso hacia el otro, si esto tal vez llevaría a que le robaran su alegría? Y muchas otras preguntas más complejas que esa. Y si no me cree, piense en la historia de Lot.(Frases aparecen aquí:  link  )
 
 
 
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Como último comentario acerca de la visita del Papa Francisco a Colombia, debemos comentar que un aspecto en el que la visión del Papa difiere radicalmente de la tradición republicana clásica está en el rol de los que tienen medios/riqueza —muchas veces familias con cierta historia—- dentro de la política. No se cansa el Papa Francisco de indicar que quien tiene dinero, y sobretodo quien ama el dinero, es mejor que no participe en política. El mensaje del Papa es tal, que a veces ni se separan esas dos condiciones.

Está equivocado —no, equivocadísimo— el Papa; no nos da miedo indicarlo. ¿Qué nos da la seguridad de saber que la visión del Papa es injusta con el ámbito político? Las palabras de Aristóteles acerca del rol de la magnanimidad (“megalopsuchia”) dentro de la vida política en su obra ética. Y no se requiere sino mirar brevemente el listado de virtudes que da Aristóteles y contrastarlas con las virtudes de la tradición católica, para ver el por qué. Y de igual manera no sorprende cómo, cuando Santo Tomás Aquino interpreta a Aristóteles, reduce esas virtudes —y sobretodo la magnanimidad— a un segundo plano. Están en todo su derecho, pero es más difícil autoconsiderarse aristotélicos cuando realizan estas reinterpretaciones que terminan hablando otro lenguaje totalmente diferente.

Y lo crucial, es que esta interpretación del Papa puede generar aún más daño del que ha generado en sociedades como Colombia y Venezuela. Es hora ya de recuperar el valor de la magnanimidad en lo político tal y como lo defiende Aristóteles en el LIbro IV de la Ética Nicomáquea. Para no mencionar otros temas ligados al anterior como el valor de la propiedad privada para la estabiidad y libertad de todo ámbito político.

El camino de la verdad no lo abre sólo la fe. El camino de la verdad lo abre también el pensamiento y la reflexión política. La fe, también, puede ser una adicción. (Para no mencionar lo obvio acerca de las propiedades del la Iglesia misma.)

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ESCRITOS CORRUPCIÓN Y PAZ COLOMBIA 2017

(y su contexto)

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El año pasado, el 2016, escribimos críticamente sobre el proceso de paz en Colombia (link ), en particular antes y después del plebiscito que ganó el “NO” contra todo pronóstico. Dicho resultado fue negado de manera anti-democrática y anti-ética. Ese es el contexto específico de los escritos que siguen a continuación.

Ahora, en el 2017, escribimos sobre la corrupción en Colombia. No es necesario ser un genio para ver la conexión entre la primera problemática y la segunda. Sin embargo, como se verá en los siguiente escritos, hay muchos que defienden la paz a como de lugar, incluso a través de medios corruptos. Consideramos también que los que creen ser los menos corruptos, pueden llegar a ser los más corruptos. Ahí el peligro omnipresente de la corrupción tanto privada como pública.

Afortunadamente, a diferencia de tantos columnistas y periodistas y demás personajes “importantes” de Colombia,  nadie nos ha pagado un peso por estos escritos. Tampoco nos han dado cargos o diplomas a través de ellos. Simplemente los hemos compartido, como los anteriores, en Facebook. Creemos que escribiremos menos y menos al respecto, simplemente porque creemos que escribiríamos palabras demasiado similares! Además sabemos que usted lector sabe mucho mejor qué hacer.

Escribimos en medio de circunstancias que algunos cercanos conocen, escribimos por amor a  Colombia y a Canadá; y sobretodo por el respeto y admiración a las palabras de Aristóteles acerca de la importancia de crear una ciudadanía ética y políticamente educada. Aristóteles, el modelo.

(Nota 1: Para tweets/tuits y columnas encontrarán el link, casi siempre, luego de una reflexión –—a veces corta, a veces larga (!)— acerca del tema.)

(Nota 2, Octubre 1 de 2017:

Y así como lo hicimos en el 2016 —–cuando dejamos de escribir por muchos meses sobre Colombia, hasta ya entrado el 2017—– ahora también dejaremos de escribir sobre Colombia hasta el 2018. Si a una sola persona le sirvió lo que escribimos durante estos largos últimos meses nos damos por bien servidos. Para nosotros es siempre un placer escribir y reflexionar. Quedan recopilados en nuestro blog.
Pero no sobra decir que se ha vuelto costumbre escribir y comentar día a día, segundo a segundo. Pero la realidad es que hay unos principios éticos y políticos que van mucho más allá del día a día. Estos principios son los que guían ahora y siempre, no dependiendo de circustancias históricas particulares, el quehacer politico. Esos principios los da Aristóteles en sus textos ético-políticos, textos que siguen y complementan la tradición inaugurada por Sócrates. Porque Sócrates se INVENTÓ el análisis filosófico de lo político. Impresionante. Y no sobra tampoco recordar que Sócrates no escribió una sola palabra, creemos, no porque le faltara tiempo para hacerlo, sino para indicar de manera inequívoca que la vida de la reflexión —la vida filosófica– es una realidad vital, una realidad de carne y hueso que nada escrito puede captar o explicitar. La reflexión permanente es un modo de vida.
Hasta el 2018, año que definirá el futuro de Colombia para siempre.)

 

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Osuna.

Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 7.57.56 PM

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(Añadido al final del 2017: diciembre 31.)

 

Que en el 2018 los colombianos y colombianas dejen clarito como el agua que no se van a dejar robar como en el plebiscito y que la paz de Santos ha de ser modificada fundamentalmente.
Sobretodo que sea modificada en cuanto a: a) la impunidad descarada de las no arrepentidas cabecillas de las farc con sus narcobienes, b) la reconfiguración de la triste y mal lograda JEP, c) la búsqueda de la corrupción electoral en la Presidencia de Santos, d) la persecución seria y colectiva de los narcos anti-colombianos, y e) la intervención exagerada y nada objetiva de a ONU en el futuro de Colombia.
(Como si los colombianos/as fueran niños/as que necesitan que les cojan de la mano para vivir. Háganse respetar colombianos/as. ¿No se cansan de que por fuera de su país los vean como niños y niñas?)
Que voten masivamente en contra de Santos y quienes defienden sus ideas como Vargas (y demás), y aún más en contra de quienes son hasta más extremistas como las farc y los académicos como Fajardo (y demás).
Todos tuvieron 8 años para mostrar los resultados de la paz, y no los lograron. Que no se escuden ahora en lo que siempre dijeron: “que no los dejaron.” Lo que ganaron con corrupción, no se les permitirá.
Voten colombianos/as masivamente en pro de la coalición por el NO tanto para congreso como para Presidente y Vice-Presidente.
Y que entiendan —además—- que si no lo hacen, perderán su libertad. Y la libertad una vez perdida hace indigno el vivir para ustedes como personas y para sus familias y seres queridos.

 

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(Añadido al final del 2017)

Para Santos, entre más enfermo el pueblo colombiano, más su gloria como sanador.

Pero un verdadero sanador no DESEA que los que quiere estén enfermos. TODO lo contario, desea con toda su alma NUNCA —JAMÁS— tener que ser sanador.

Santos, DESEA con su alma, ser sanador. Esa es su más grande enfermedad. Porque CREERSE sanador no es lo mismo que SER sanador.

O de otra manera, el que quiera ser sanador, que primero cuente como fue de enfermo.

Santos –según él mismo— nunca ha estado enfermo. De allí su soberbia. No lo sabe Santos, pero su soberbia es su enfermedad.

Para no mencionar su exorbitante riqueza; que incluso orgulloso muestra en su declaración de renta.

Y además de su amor por el dinero, el obvio deseo desenfrenado por el poder político. Esa enfermedad que lo une a las farc como a amigos.

Primero sánese para sanar otros como lo indica Aristóteles para quien la filosofía política es un tipo de medicina.

link

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(Añadido al final del 2017)

Otra manera de entender lo que dijo Santos.

a) Palabras luego de la visita del Papa a Colombia:

“Queridos hermanos colombianos. He conocido a tantas personas que me han tocado el corazón. Ustedes me ha hecho mucho bien”.

b) Contraste las palabras parafraseadas de Santos:

“Ustedes (no yo y mi familia, afortunadamente) están muy enfermos. Me lo dijo un académico de Harvard.”

Preguntamos: ¿Será que el Papa es tan burro?

CONCLUSIÓN:

Colombianos: alégrense en el alma que en pocos meses Santos no los gobernará más. Ese es el mejor regalo para el 2018. Ojalá quien lo reemplace corrija lo que han hecho Santos y sus seguidores —–sobretodo con respecto a las farc y a Venezuela y a la ONU—– y nos devuelva la dignidad y la libertad.

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(Añadido al final del 2017)

¿Cuál es la diferencia principal entre Don Quijote y Santos?

Que Don Quijote nos hace reír con sus locuras. No paramos de sonreír y reír en el espejo que es Don Quijote.

Santos, en cambio, no genera ni una sonrisa, y menos risa alguna.

¿Cuál es otra diferencia fundamental entre Don Quijote y Santos?

Que Don Quijote sólo necesito de un amigo para sus locuras andantes, un gran amigo. Sancho.

Santos necesitó de engañar a todo un pueblo sin nunca ser amigo de alguno.

Y en cuanto a las farc y sus crímenes de lesa humanidad, basta con leer el Capítulo 22.

link

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(Añadido al final del 2017)

Durante las aventuras de Don Quijote, Sancho Panza siempre sueña con poder gobernar una ínsula. Sancho Panza no se cansa de decir “ínsula o ínsulo”. Lo cual es muy cómico. El deseo de gobernar lo lleva a seguir las locuras de Don Quijote.

Pero una vez es gobernador, Cervantes nos hace ver lo poco deseable que le resulta la vida de gobernar. Sancho encarna esta crítica a la vida política. El capítulo 53 de la Segunda Parte se titula: “Del fatigado fin y remate que tuvo el gobierno de Sancho Panza.”

Conectado con lo que dijimos anteriormente —-quienes como el Presidente Santos con tranquilidad llaman a sus gobernados enfermos—- debieran leer y releer estas palabras para preguntarse si de entrada no hay algo de enfermo en su deseo de poder. Pero el poder parece que no es capaz de verse como enfermo y necesitando cierta sanación. No, al contrario, el poder cree sanar todo. “Si tuviera el poder, lo arreglaría todo”, se dice a sí mismo. Nadie puede hacerle ver lo contrario. El poder lo enceguece haciéndole reflejarse en un espejo de “pura” bondad incuestionable.

Para ni hablar del caso de Santos y su amor por el dinero, que es reflejado en la cantidad exagerada de propiedades que posee y que muestra orgulloso a sus conciudadanos, muchos de ellos y ellas sumidos en gran pobreza.

Además, y como lo hemos repetido una y otra vez, Sancho y Cervantes nos hacen reír. Santos no hace reír ni al más risueño.

Todo esto, y mucho más, es lo que enseña Aristóteles y lo que Santos poco ha aprendido.

Aquí, el leal Sancho:

link

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Nada como escuchar a un corrupto, pero poderoso, hablando de que en absoluto es corrupto.

(Pero bueno, eso lo escuchamos muchas, pero muchas veces, en nuestras vidas, de poderosos y nada poderosos.)

 

 

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El corrupto fiscal anti-corrupción mostrando orgulloso su libro. Clave para entender la epidemia de corrupción en Colombia.

 

 

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Ahora todo es cizaña. Que si digo “a” cizaña; que si digo “b”,
cizaña. Cizaña … la suya.

¿Quiere salir de la cizaña?

Entonces cuando hable o escriba –y sobretodo, cuando piense– hágalo a través de argumentos. Fácil.

Lo díficil. Que aprender a argumentar toma toda una vida que entre otras cosas requiere:

1) aprender a gustarle los argumentos,

2) aprender a gustarle evaluar buenos y malos argumentos a través de la razón,

SOBRETODO,

3) aprender a leer y leer y leer a quienes –especialmente si va a hablar de lo político—- han dado los más sofisticados y relevantes argumentos para comprender las posibilidades del ámbito político (Locke, Rousseau, Montesquieu, DeTocqueville, Marx, Hobbes, Aristóteles, Platón, Maquiavelo, Biblia, Santo Tomás Moro, Aquino, Lincoln …)

4) comenzar a entender la relación entre a) argumentación, b) carácter y c) retórica. (Acerca del triángulo Aristotélico puede aprender acá:https://prezi.com/7snss9sqhkoi/aristotles-rhetorical-triangle/ )

5) preferiblemente venir de una cultura que valore los argumentos (e.g., el valor de “public speaking” en los Estados Unidos —–de tanta importancia—- que los debates presidenciales cobran un valor sui generis)

y finalmente,

6) tener el ingenio, humor y amor-propio suficiente como para atacar la cizaña que desconoce de argumentos; no tratando de convercerla, sino silenciándola. ¡Porque a veces hay que ser al menos el doble de cizañero que el cizañero! (Y en casos extremos, evitándola, o usando los recursos legales disponibles)

Nota 1: ¿Quiere aprender sobre argumentación? Aquí puede hacer un curso completo gratis. ¿Único detalle? En inglés.

link

Nota 2: Otro sitio excelente,

link

Nota 3: Sin lugar a duda, el mejor texto introductorio sobre los más importantes argumentos políticos de la historia, es del Profesor Pangle y tiene versión electrónica para el app Kindle:

link

y gratis, acá:

link

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A manera de resumen, la división en Colombia se puede entender así:

Grupo A: Para algunos la paz con las farc es SEPARADA de la corrupción. Es más, para esos mismos, la paz es —en su imaginario– la que algún día futuro acabará usando su intensa luz la oscura corrupción, sobretodo la corrupción institucional. A estos se les puede llamar “los iluminados”. La paz es el INSECTICIDA de la corrupción.

Grupo B: Para otros la paz con las farc es el RESULTADO de la corrupción. Es más, para esos mismos, la paz –en su imaginario— es el camino disfrazado (como el cuento de las ovejas) hacia la máxima corrupción posible, la corrupción del alma de un pueblo y la entrega de la ibertad y la vida a unos pocos. A estos se les puede llamar “los realistas” . La paz es el ABONO de la corrupción.

La mayoría de colombianos pertenecen al Grupo B, como lo indican las encuestas. La ONU pertenece al Grupo A. La arrogancia de los iluminados —ahora miembros de la JEP— y sus deseos nunca cuestionados (como ocurrió en el plebiscito del 2016) son el impulso para ese rechazo de la población colombiana.

Sin duda alguna nosotros pertenecemos al Grupo B, y lo hacemos con orgullo. Colombia debe en su mayoría redefinir el proceso de paz hacia este Grupo B. Así la paz no destruirá la libertad sino que la hará más real.

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Reflections: TWOOK — “A Reflective Educational Experiment (in times of illness)”: (click below)

TWOOK — “A Reflective Educational Experiment (in times of illness)”, 1-6.  (pdf file)

IMPORTANT: All posts, pages, art and written work found in this blog are licensed through Creative Commons:
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

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IMPORTANT: All posts, pages, art and written work found in this blog are licensed through Creative Commons:
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

REFLECTIONS

FINAL PROJECT TESL CERTIFICATION CANADA:

BUSINESS ENGLISH CLASS (pdf. file)

TOPIC: “RAISING FINANCE THROUGH MICROFINANCE”

December/January 2015

CLICK HERE FOR PROJECT:  FINAL PROJECT TESL CANADA

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Reflections:  Aboriginals in Canada and Two Possible Meanings of “Discrimination” 

“So there is certainly no lack of activity in our little boat, but is there any purpose? Is the tall figure who may or may not be the Spirit of Haida Gwaii leading us, for we are all in the same boat, to a sheltered beach beyond the rim of the world as he seems to be, or is he lost in a dream of his own dreamings? The boat moves on, forever anchored in the same place.” (my emphasis: words of Bill Reid on his own sculpture, The Spirit of Haida Gwaii)

And there was always the wind ….. and sometimes …… sometimes ….. the wind brought good news, and sometimes …… sometimes ….. the wind brought evil.” (my emphasis: Taken from the first of Inuit Legends, CBC Aboriginal, “Inuit Journey”: link)

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 Spirit of the Haida Gwai

The verb “to discriminate” has come to have a primary negative definition. Basically, very roughly, it means “to unfairly treat a person or group of people differently from the rest.“ Of course, for the negative definition to succeed, the emphasis must be placed in the “unfairly” or “unjustly”. This is the reason why we speak of “anti-discrimination”; we wish to correct a wrong. But, for sure, there is no negative discrimination simply by the fact of there being mere difference: that Canadians see themselves as radically different from Americans does not imply discrimination in the negative sense. Thus, difference does not always lead to discrimination; but difference which is the result of a certain grave and prolonged injustice, surely does. Slavery in the USA is one blatant example, the treatment of Aboriginals in Canada a parallel one.

The history of Canada´s First Nations is surely the result of an unjust and forced differentiation. It is not just based on the now oft-repeated problematic phrase “we are all different”; it is more based on the idea that “we are so different, that you and yours must cease to be.” If lucky enough to be spared death, the “other” must still be so assimilated that this “other” becomes nothing but a crippled “us”. Such historical triumphs are truly essential defeats. In this regard, educating ourselves about the history, the nature and the consequences of the current discriminatory relationship we have with Aboriginals is but the first step in ameliorating the pervasive and noxious effects multiple non-Aboriginal policies have had  over their destiny, their sense of self-worth, their linguistic identity, their territorial self-sufficiency and their potential for political empowerment (see latest interview by Judge John Reilly in CBC’s The Current: link, and very important previous interview as well). This includes, as we shall see, most poignantly the ESL setting. Why so? Because the language issue is perhaps at the core of the mode of forced assimilation, even annihilation which Aboriginals in Canada have had to face. Now, before proceeding and in order to be clear as to what we mean by Aboriginals, it is important to note that in 2011, 1,400,685 people in Canada identified themselves as Aboriginal: “4.3 percent of the total population of Canada: 851,560 were First Nations, 451,790 were Métis, 59,440 were Inuit. (p. 8 of the excellent First People’s Guide for Newcomers created by the City of Vancouver and which should be replicated in each Province and downloaded by all ESL teachers and students: link .)

Fortunately though, “to discriminate” does not possess this negative meaning alone. To discriminate CAN in fact be liberated from a sense of injustice, from the permanent presence of the pain –an absolutely understandable, yet unimaginable, pain– that accompanies prolonged suffering from wrong-doing. Why is this positive definition so important? For an identity built on an injury seems to us to remain unable to move; a healthy identity necessarily must somehow move beyond mere negation of itself and the injurer. An identity founded solely on the hatred of the occupier seems to us destined to fail. In this sense, it is of great importance to emphasize that “to discriminate” is also defined as the mark of someone who can “perceive the distinguishing or peculiar features of a given thing/topic”. A dictionary provides the following example: “the human eye can discriminate between very slight gradations of color”. Such a skill is truly unique, it may perhaps be among the highest. For it takes great sensitivity, imagination and most importantly, intelligence, to be able to see the whole of reality in all its color gradations. In photographic terms, few can see the shades of gray; few are like Ansel Adams.

Unfortunately, in the case of our relation to Aboriginals, this more positive sense of discrimination is for the most part lacking. We non-Aboriginals fail to see even what appears most evident. In the case of Canada’s First Nations, and Aboriginals generally, our eyes continue to be blind to a kind of devastating differentiation which we ourselves (the non-Aboriginals) have initiated and of which we continue to be part of. In these brief pages we seek to begin to shake ourselves free –so far as possible– from such damaging presuppositions, specially as they appear in the field of ESL. (more…)

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DIPLOMA COURSERA

Reflections: Political Thoughts on Sustainable Development (A Commentary on Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs’s Coursera course: “The Age of Sustainable Development”)

Having had the opportunity to start to undertake Professor Sachs´s quite informative and extremely educational course on Sustainable Development (SD) –now going into its 6th week— I would like to briefly express some of my concerns and questions regarding SD. Of course, as I read the Discussion Forums, many point to issues regarding the many factors involved in the implementation of the policies which SD allows us to better see and hopefully, to implement, specially in those cases of “poverty trap” in which the conditions are more troubling and recurring. No one wishes to live in inhuman hardship all his/her life; extreme poverty must be eradicated via a concerted effort, and by all ethical means available. In this regard, many of the now famous “TED talks” allow us to try to imagine the hardships and thus feel the importance of connecting lovingly for serious practical improvement: for example, TED talks by: 1) Bono, 2) Jacqueline Novogratz (specially the one regarding prostitution), and my two favorite, 3) Jessica Jackley, founder of KIVA  here , and 4) Bunker Roy founder of the Barefoot Movement here . Also, non-academic books such as The International Bank of Bob by Bob Harris, which tells the story of microfinancing success KIVA whose motto is tellingly “loans that change lives”, humble us and transform us in ways we could not even foresee. In brief, many are concerned, and rightly so, with practical issues. Many forum posts in this course come to mind in this regard. Let us just recall a simple one:

“Hello all peers,  My name is Abdikadir Daud from Ethiopian Somali region, I’m forwarding my thanks to the course   facilitator because I got extended knowledge from this course and I will transfer this skill to my communities .
Thanks
Abdikadir” ( here )

Abdikadir from Ethiopia, like many of us from around the world, wants to make a difference.

However, my questions proceed from a very different area. They pertain to philosophical questions, that is to say, they deal with the core concepts, formulations and assumptions which must be put forward in the case of any given approach to the complex political and economic reality in which we live. P. Sachs himself does not tire of saying that SD is not merely a PRACTICAL path to CHANGE the world, but also –and more importantly— a THEORETICAL path to UNDERSTAND the world (Lecture 1, Week 1; and beginning of 1st Google Hangout, here ). He even goes so far as to say that it is a NORMATIVE framework which means it involves certain moral presuppositions. These convey the limits, for instance, for all business practices; not everything that is legal should be done. (see, for instance, 2nd Google Hangout: Question No. 4, “On the role of regulation of business.”) Consequently, my main concern regarding the EXCELLENT lectures we have been fortunate to partake in, is to signal –however embryonically– to some of the more puzzling philosophical underpinnings underlying the Sustainable Development Movement. This means that, according to such a critique, it becomes extremely important to undergo a rational critique of the core concepts which guide the interpretative self-understanding of SD. I believe that training in the humanities (specially, political philosophy) alone provides the impulse to see the real importance of such a critique, a political/philosophical critique. I also believe that, given this theoretical inclination, few of our fellow Coursera virtual classmates will proceed to consider the rest of this –much longer than normal– post!

Obviously –though I have lived half of my life in Colombia (which exemplifies many of the problems P. Sachs speaks of, and MORE!) and the other half in Canada (which exemplifies many of the benefits of which P. Sachs speaks of, and MORE!)— we must immediately confess that we do not possess the intellectual capacity nor the global comprehension that somebody like P. Sachs allows us to perceive in each of his engaging video-lectures for the Coursera course. We are but learners, poor in understanding. Be this as it may, nonetheless we will venture to point to what I consider to be some extremely troubling silences and/or omissions which may make us –should make us– question SD forcefully.

Now, although I have already tweeted  to #susdev some general short questions, for instance: 1) “ #susdev Suppose we ALL were middle-income citizens of the world. Is that enough? Would our spirit not lose sight of what is MOST important?”, or 2) “ #susdev Isn´t there a rhetorical identification between “extreme poverty” and “poverty” which does not allow for a real critique of SD goals?”, still –as mentioned above– our concern in this post is somewhat more detailed or profound.

We could say that SD, in general —and Clinical Economics, in particular— could be giving us a “differential diagnosis” that may SEEM to point to the root cause of things, variable as they may be, but which may end up REALLY missing the CORE causes of the general “disease” with which some thinkers believe we are currently afflicted as moderns and post-moderns. And by missing some of the CORE causes, it might not be providing the best “medicine(s)” available/desirable. In the philosophical arena, the most radical critics in this regard would be those who follow Heidegger´s powerful critique of technology. Though extremely important, we shall not go into that camp here in detail.

Rather, using P. Sachs own clinical analogy, we can say that it is common nowadays to see traditional Western medicine incapable of treating complex diseases which do not have to deal with physical trauma or life-death situations. Chronic illness, such as different forms of arthritis/fibromyalgia, are a case in point. Of course, P. Sachs´s views seem to us to be much more akin to alternative medicine, in this respect. For one of the basic tenets of alternative medicine is that each patient is UNIQUE. So, each country, according to “Differential Clinical Economics” is likewise, quite UNIQUE. P. Sachs does not tire of saying that a holistic approach to the healing of poverty cannot be founded on a single linear conception of cause. Failing to understand this uniqueness may in fact worsen the situation beyond recovery. In medicine, one need only bring to mind the controversy over the drug Celebrex which not only did not actually cure your arthritis (it simply alleviated the pain), but actually –with certainty– damaged your heart! The history of many other drugs follows this pattern, unfortunately. In political life, the current political turmoil of countries such as our feverish neighbor Venezuela, may be thought to be something akin. As you will see, given the spirit of this post, one truly wonders what P. Sachs´s thoughts are on the current crisis in Venezuela, precisely because its regime claims to hold power for the poor. However that may be, P. Sachs —who also helped Bolivia during its feverish times— summarizes this view well:

“The modern doctor is expected to diagnose the specific causes of a specific patient’s illness and to offer a specific prescription that is accurately honed to that patient’s conditions and needs. The modern economist should do the same in diagnosing the persistence of poverty.” (our emphasis; Chapter 4: “Why Some Countries Developed While Others Stayed Poor, I. The Idea of Clinical Economics”)

 

Thus, one imagines that if P. Sachs himself were to fall ill, he would most likely search for an alternative medicine center rather than a traditional monolithic hospital built on unquestioned homogeneous forms of understanding, (or better yet, both if possible, for not all traditional doctors are self-enclosed and not all alternative doctors are truly open). The drama of the latest candidate for the Oscar Awards which deals with HIV/Aids –the compelling movie, Dallas Buyers Club—exemplifies all these tensions perfectly. For we, who have been sick, know well that the sick are among the poorest, mind you.

But, as you will see below, our critique could be said to involve a much more intense and alternative diagnosis than the one which P. Sachs offers. It would be an alternative to the alternative; but much more troubling. It would be an alternative that would show –if someday made fully explicit– that the alternative provided by SD is, in the end, really, really, not so much of an alternative except in the imagination, albeit with some crucial exceptions, among them, that of the eradication of extreme poverty itself. The idealistic overtones of SD would be seen thus to be constantly destabilized by the realistic peculiarities of localities, by a kind of non-Machiavellian political realism (i.e., much closer to Thucydides´s) and by certain “intractables” of human nature. Or to be less severe and less cranky (!) —for we know, as its students, that SD has partially succeeded IN REALITY through exciting models such as those of the Millennium Villages– one could say that the goals of SD, for instance, the Eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG´S), must be corrected with recourse to another tradition which not only sets the hierarchy of these goals aright, but also may add some which may have been altogether forgotten in SD differential diagnosis, however complete it claims to be. ( here )

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COMMENTARY ON ARISTOTLE’S NICOMACHEAN ETHICS: BOOK I, 12

(For the nature of the sections see the “General Introduction”, here.)

Abbreviations: Ar. = Aristotle, AQ= Aquinas, NE = Nicomachean Ethics, EE= Eudemian Ethics

NICOMACHEAN ETHICS

BOOK I

CHAPTER TWELVE

“With these things defined, let us examine closely whether happiness is something praised or rather honored, for it is clear it does not belong among the capacities, at any rate. Now, everything praised appears to be praised for its being of a certain sort and for its condition relative to something: we praise the just person, the courageous person, and, in general, the good person as well as virtue itself, on account of the action and works involved; and we praise the strong man and the swift runner and each of the rest for their being, by nature, of a certain sort and for their condition in relation to something good and serious. This is also clear on the basis of the praises offered to the gods, since it is manifestly laughable for them to be compared to us; but this happens because praise arises through comparison, as we said.  And if praise is of things of that sort, it is clear that not praise, but something greater and better than praise applies to the best things, as in fact appears to be the case: the gods we deem blessed and happy, and the most divine of men we deem blessed.

The case is similar with the good things too, none praise happiness the way they praise justice; rather, people deem happiness a blessed thing, on the grounds that it is something more divine and better. And Eodoxus too seems to have nobly pleaded his case that the first prize belongs to pleasure. For the fact that it is not praised as being among the good things reveals, he supposed, that it is superior to the things praised; and such, he supposed, is the god and the good. For it is to these that all else is compared. Indeed, praise belongs to virtue: people are apt to do noble things as a result of virtue, whereas encomiums belong to the works of both body and soul alike. But perhaps being very precise about these things is more appropriate to those who have labored over encomiums; to us it is clear, on the basis of what has been said, that happiness belongs among the things that are honored and complete. This seems to be the case also on account of its being a principle: for it is for the sake of this that we all do everything else, and we posit the principle and the cause of the good things as being something honorable and divine. ” (NE, 1101b10-1102a4; Aristotle´s Nicomachean Ethics, Bartlett, Robert, and Collins, Susan; University of Chicago, Chicago, 2011)

I. PRIVATE PUZZLES

1) Aren’t we somewhat caught off guard by the sudden appearance of this extremely short and striking, not to say strange and foreign, subsection? But then again, should be really SO surprised by its appearance if we have listened carefully to what Ar. has said (and not said) in previous subsections? For isn’t this subsection a “recapitulation” of sorts? Doesn’t Ar. here once again mention the courageous man and the just man, the exemplars of political life in a sense? For, what is there to be of political life without its defenders in battle and its defenders in virtue? And, what is there to be of political life without the just and their healthy obedient submission to the law? But also, doesn’t Ar. mention once again the athletic humans who, we imagine, participate in the kind of competitions Ar. mentioned way back in subsection I, 8; namely, the swift runner/the strong man? Weren´t we there led to think, like Nietzsche has us believe about that Greeks, that Ar. too favored primarily this competitive politically inspired spirit (for the athlete, as in the Olympics, REPRESENTS his city/nation, doesn’t he?)? And, if happiness is related not to a capacity as Ar. himself puts it here (though he will question this at 2.1 and 2.5 (see section IV below)), but rather perhaps to a kind of activity (let us assume so for a moment), then —to our amazement— this ODD short section would certainly seem to point out that the highest form of activity is NOT that characteristic of those who consider themselves and are considered to be the just and the courageous and the sportive within society, wouldn’t it? But honestly speaking, who could be more active than, for instance, the courageous? Isn´t war THE action par excellence? “But what, more exactly, is so astounding?”, a reader might ask. Well, precisely that if we are looking for the architectonic science which “calls the shots” as regards the good and happiness, then even here, when we are just barely finishing ONLY BOOK I of the NE —–out of 10 difficult books all complex in their own right, and besides without ANY sustained argumentation having explicitly pointed in this direction—— Ar. CLEARLY gives the adherents to political life previously mentioned as “appearing” to be the architectonic good (I, 2) ONLY a SECONDARY position, doesn’t he? And if all this is at least half so, then we need ask why many interpreters are so SURPRISED, as we have argued in previous subsections, once Ar. reaches similar conclusions at the END of the NE in Book X? Put another way, what is it about OUR current paradigmatic forms of philosophical understanding that the overall direction of Ar. own thought cannot be seen, let alone properly appreciated? However, in the just and courageous defense of ourselves: haven’t OUR commentaries at least pointed —- however inadequately, of course—- in THIS direction? For instance, haven’t we painstakingly mentioned again and again the “conundrums of courage”? That is to say, how exactly will courage in defending one´s own come to line up with the happiness in being one´s own?

But let us move back a bit, and ask again: How exactly did we GET HERE? What if this passage held the KEY to the whole of the NE? Actually, one could argue that one could seriously dedicate one’s whole life to an understanding of this passage alone, couldn’t one? But also, isn’t what we learn from other commentators even more revealing and perplexing in this regard?  For isn’t it striking to see, for instance JOACHIM —in his very detailed, almost line-by-line commentary—- speaking of this passage in the following terms: “The passage has no philosophical interest, as indeed Aristotle himself recognizes … when he says that the topic is more appropriate (to those who have made a study of encomia) (Joachim, p. 61) But, why exactly does Joachim say it has “no philosophical interest”, as IF Ar. here ONLY, or even primarily, spoke of encomia? Perhaps, wouldn’t it be more precise to say that it is of no philosophical interest to JOACHIM? (!) For wouldn’t it be odd that Ar., who is so careful in all his philosophical endeavors, once again slipped up —do remember how we were once told there were three lives only to find out there were really, really four (!)——and added a subsection which was really, really, not relevant as Joachim claims? Wouldn’t that kind of interpretative attitude be in the same ballpark as those who say that the books on the virtues must be “skipped over as irrelevant”? But isn’t this a kind of a reflective surrender? For even if we cannot fully ANSWER a puzzle, shouldn’t we at least RECOGNIZE the puzzle for what it is in the first place? And what if our philosophical interests as MODERN philosophers were genuinely FOREIGN to those of Aristotle? Wouldn’t it then become OBVIOUS that we wouldn’t see them? For what if we could not even see the problematic nature of justice itself (one might think of the differing roles played by the Greek dikaiosune in Ar.,  in contrast to the concept of Recht in both Kant and Hegel: for a personal political example see here)? Moreover, aren´t we also struck by the fact that this subsection 12 of BOOK I is kind of a conclusion —–or very close to a conclusion, as Book I is composed of 13 subsections—– to the introductory BOOK I we are almost about to finish?

Let us be a bit bold before looking at the details: could this be making explicit Ar.‘s own hypothesis which will, following Plato’s dialectical reasoning in the Republic, truly be a steppingstone by means of which we will ascend to give the principle which at the start must be assumed, its real power, argumentative solidity and living strength? As Plato allows Socrates to say:

“Well, then, go on to understand that by the other segment of the intelligible I mean that which argument itself grasps with the power of dialectic, making the hypotheses not beginnings but really hypotheses—that is, steppingstones and springboards—in order to reach what is free from hypothesis at the beginning of the whole. When it has grasped this, argument now depends on that which depends on this beginning and in such fashion goes back down again to an end;”(my emphasis: Republic, 511b)

And thus we ask, conscious we are entering deep waters: will we (or better, some of Ar. listeners) by the end of the NE be much less puzzled and much more aware about why this passage reveals the direction of the whole: that is to say, the whole of the text, and even the whole of our lives?  Isn’t this why Ar. ends this extremely strange subsection by SUDDENLY making reference to THE principle (arche)? That is to say, doesn´t he write as regards happiness (eudaimonia):

This seems to be the case also on account of its being a principle: for it is for the sake of this that we all do everything else, and we posit the principle and the cause of the good things as being something honorable and divine.”

Or put yet another way, what we mean to ask dialectically is whether by the end of the NE this principle posited as a hypothesis (understood as a steppingstone) will have been rationally proven to be THE principle by which some of us choose to lead our lives (and perhaps aid a few interested others in at least trying to have a faint image of its presence)? Or put still another way, will this principle achieve life beyond mere formality, freeing the hypothesis “at the beginning of the whole”? Or will we, pace Ar., end up in a kind of Kantian formalism which remains quite aloof both from the way the best of statesmen/stateswomen actually do lead their political, as well as from the way the best of living philosophers live theirs?

2) But leaving aside such perplexing —perhaps even counterproductive (!)—- generalities,we must ask as regards the specifics of the subsection: why does Ar. ONCE again give us an either/or, namely happiness is EITHER praised OR honored? Why not leave it at its being USEFUL, as modern Utilitarianism has it? Or, why not take the AESTHETIC route as Nietzsche does in his reference to Stendhal?  Or, why not leave it at CIVILITY as in Locke? Why is Ar. so reticent to go DOWN these modern roads? Isn´t Ar., instead, rather keen on puzzling philosophically about utility, beauty and civility (nobility)? Why don´t WE seem to puzzle thus? Or, from a different point of view: don´t we find in the religious Spanish word “alabar”, for instance, BOTH a praising and an honoring of God? I mean, does THAT difference —between praising and honoring—  make ANY sense as we read the Bible (see section III below)? Is there really ANY difference between praising and honoring God in the Bible? What is Ar. getting at then? Why does he wish to separate them thus, and so poignantly? Where is the alleged “Aristotelian flexibility” so many interpreters seem to speak of, to be found here? Or, is it rather than when seeking rationally the TRUTH about the essential, tough choices are in order?

For truly Ar. says, happiness can be either something PRAISED (τῶν ἐπαινετῶν) OR something honored (τῶν τιμίων)? But doesn´t this assertion lead US to an even more EXTREME puzzle? For doesn’t Ar. seem to be going at the argument as if HE HAD NEVER said anything about honor in the first place? However, didn’t he tell us  —in what, it is true, seems a long time ago— that the life of honor is only SECONDARY to that of contemplation (the latter which of course, as we pointed out, Ar. mentioned ONLY to silence immediately!). But shouldn’t WE refresh our memory and recall the words Ar. had told us just some subsections before as regards the nature of “honor”, namely: but it appears to be more superficial than what is being sought, for honor seems to reside more with those who bestow it than with him who receives it; and we divine that the good is something of one’s own and a thing not easily taken away”? So, a bit dizzy we ask: do we understand clearly? According to subsection I, 5, the life of honor is NOT the highest in part because it depends on the recognition by others, right? But NOW Ar. asks us to consider the question as to whether happiness is PRAISED OR HONORED? But isn’t what we hear here about praise EXTREMELY akin to what we have heard about honor previously, specially as regards its being dependent on others? Let’s listen to what Ar. himself has to say regarding PRAISE in THIS subsection I, 12: “Now, everything praised appears to be praised for its being of a certain sort and for its condition relative to somethingbecause praise arises through comparison.” Now we need ask, what makes these two —-that is to say, the honor of previous subsections and the praise of this subsection—– SO different? And to make things even MORE confusing; isn’t Ar. asking us HERE to really see the radical difference between PRAISE and HONOR with regards to the best, most complete and self-sufficient principle which IS happiness? Unlike Joachim, we must persevere in our puzzle, mustn’t we? Isn’t this dramatic tension precisely why we say again that one could spend one’s entire life trying to understand this, usually found to be rather irrelevant passage? (more…)

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