Emmanuel Levinas on Peace

The last entry on Carl Schmitt reflected on the implications of a realpolitik where the sovereign state is necessary to protect us from the hatred that can erupt so easily in human relationships. On one extreme end of this spectrum is war as the ultimate option to defend collective interests against enemies. What is on the other end? Can we find a viable political philosophy […]

Carl Schmitt on Political Power

Carl Schmitt (1888–1985) is one of the most influential conservative political thinkers of the 20th century. His work remains very controversial, but his ideas allow us to think through some of the old problems of political philosophy in a fresh light. What can we learn from him today, in the midst of the current  transformation of the political sphere? The nature of political […]

What is Zen?

Thomas Merton describes in his 1961 book “Mystics and Zen Masters” how the tradition of Zen resonates and overlaps with mystical traditions worldwide. He also examines various Christian monastic traditions in order to show us the similarities and differences in the search for mystical experience across cultures and religions. The following comments, based on quotes from his book, illustrate that […]

The Rivers of Europe

The rivers of Europe are the veins that run through European culture and geography. They are the main lines of transportation and commerce, they irrigate and feed the surrounding landscapes, but they also serve as natural borders. European rivers are celebrated in songs and poems; they play a major role in the economy as well as in politics. Hundreds of […]

Kierkegaard: The Inwardness of Existence

Kierkegaard’s works are interesting to read, they have a freshness and intensity that separates them from other philosophical writings. It is easy to get lost in his aphorisms – but what are the main features of his thought? I will examine his view of becoming a Christian, his idea of a “subjective truth,” and the “dialectic of existence.”  

Existentialism Today

The task of facing one’s life cannot be met by reasoning alone; it cannot be captured in an abstract system. It requires concrete choices and actions of existing individuals in order to make it meaningful. Existentialism is a philosophical approach aimed at understanding human existence from the point of view of the experiencing subject, not from an academic distance. In the words of Søren Kierkegaard: ‘It is perfectly true, as philosophers say, that life must be understood backward. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards. And if one thinks about that proposition, it becomes more and more evident that life can never really be understood in time simply because at no particular moment can I find the necessary resting place from which to understand it—backwards.’

Gestalt Psychology

WHAT IS GESTALT THEORY? Gestalt psychology (sometimes also “gestaltism”) is a theory of mind created by the Berlin School of Experimental Psychology in the first decades of the 20th century. The German word “Gestalt” means shape, or form. Gestalt psychology tries to understand the laws that govern the human ability to acquire and maintain perceptions of meaning in a chaotic […]

You are my Creator, but I am your Master.

“Nature” has different meanings: It is the horizon of civilization, it is the material from which everything is made, and it is the origin to which everything wants to return. By “nature” we also mean the basic form which determines what something is. Aristotle thought that this natural form also determines the purpose something has. And finally, we human beings have a nature too – but how do we define it?

The Life of a Bee

The following video shows the 21 day transformation of the honeybee from larvae to nature’s greatest pollinator in a 60-second timelapse. The video was produced in a partnership between Anand Varma and the Bee Lab at the University of California, Davis. And here is his commentary, from a TED talk: Like most advanced insects, bees go through a complete metamorphosis during their development. The […]

What is life?

The study of life is the domain of biology as a natural discipline. Biology examines all living organisms, and focuses on structure, function, growth, evolution, distribution, as well as the taxonomy of life forms. Life itself is hard to define, because there is such an extraordinary diversity in its manifestations. It is more like a process, rather than a substance or state. […]

Josef Koudelka: Photos from the Underside of Europe

Josef Koudelka, a Czech photographer, was born in Moravia, Czechoslovakia, in 1938. He began to take photographs as a student in the 1950s. He started a career as an aeronautical engineer in 1961; during that time he began photographing Gypsies. He also worked part-time taking photos of theater performances in Prague. In 1967, he became a full-time photographer. In 1968, […]

The Getty Museum in LA

The Getty Center has a very impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and photos, but what makes it truly unique is the architecture. It sits like a castle on top of a hill, overlooking LA, and is build with Travertine stone, glass, and steel. The garden is truly extraordinary – it is itself a piece of art, surrounded by the museum buildings. It was […]

Venice Beach, the Hyperreality of California

Venice Beach is California at its best: the diversity, irreverence, and playfulness of Venice Beach attracts millions of visitors every year, and whenever I am in LA, I feel a strong urge to go there. With all its diversity, it seems to remain what it always was: Street shops for tattoos, marijuana, and T-shirts, entertainers performing their shows with sizable […]

What is characteristic about Human Rights?

Human rights are universal: all human beings have these rights, for no other reason than their humanity and the values attached to humanity; this means that human rights precede and trump considerations of national sovereignty and that national sovereignty, therefore, does not provide a means to escape human rights obligations. They are also moral claims, and therefore they are grounded in morality, not just law. They are necessary for the protection and realization of certain fundamental, basic and universal human values and interests. They are instrumental principles in the sense that we don’t want them for their own sake; they are means for the creation of better life quality and not just goals in themselves.

What does it mean to have rights?

When thinking about what it means to have a right it is sometimes useful to replace the word “right” with another word that expresses something similar. Let’s review some of these words in order to get a more differentiated notion of what it means to have rights. Each of these translations only capture an aspect of what we usually understand by the […]

Reason and Arguments

This article will introduce the plural to the monumental concept of rationality. Rather than treating it as a fixed noun, I suggest we should contextualize “reason” and look at propositions and their supporting arguments instead. “Reasons” are crystallized statements found in the process of thinking about something “real,” which means that there is – beyond the real – an underlying […]

Transference in Freud and Lacan

What is “transference”? “Transference” is a psychoanalytic term that refers to something that is very common in daily life: People displace unresolved conflicts, dependencies, and aggressions onto others (e.g. substituting a lover, spouse, etc. for one’s parent) for reasons that are not easily understandable. This operation occurs commonly in psychotherapy when a client transfers feelings that were previously directed to […]

Three Perspectives on Political Theory

What is the main task for any state? Providing security, creating a diverse and stable reform-oriented middle class, or unifying the citizenship through education into a strong community? These three views on political theory can be correlated with the names of Machiavelli, Aristotle, and Plato. I will discuss them briefly.

1. Security first: political realism and the role of power (Machiavelli, Hobbes.)
2. Diversity and freedom: stability and reform (Aristotle, Locke)
3. Community, unity, and vision (Plato, Rousseau.)

For sale: baby shoes, never worn

How short can a story be and still have the characteristics of a story? Hemingway gave us an example. His shortest story consists of six words only: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” He called it his best work. Life is composed of stories, lived and told. Stories have a beginning and an end. If we ever reach a time […]

Philosophical Implications of Quantum Mechanics

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) argues in his famous Lectures on Physics (1961/62) that finite accuracy of measurement also makes the future very unpredictable, because even very small errors in prediction have cascading effects that lead to vastly different outcomes. Thus, the difference between a classical interpretation (deterministic) and a quantum-mechanical explanation (indeterminisitc) is not as categorical as we sometimes assume. He […]

The Idea of Dialogue

“The cup has to be empty in order to hold something.” When a group is new, in general people talk around the point for a while. They often have a way of not directly facing anything at the beginning. They talk around things, avoiding difficulties or direct questions. If the group continues to work, this tendency begins to break down. Dialog is different from discussion, […]

What are markets? Political and philosophical reflections.

The market mechanism, taught to millions of business and economics students, is not a simple model. Even though it has been studied extensively, the political discussion about the role and applicability of markets often seems confused. A deep fact/value problem distorts the debates about markets and democracy as the cornerstones of Western societies. Is the market mechanism a normative model, a necessary ingredient of […]

Market Mechanism Explained

It seems to be fairly simple, but it raises many questions. To start with: Did Adam Smith describe a law of economics akin to a natural law, or is the market mechanism only a model or idealization that describes an optimal way to produce and distribute goods and services? When economists refer to price in a market, they try to […]

Plato and Aristotle

Plato lived from 428/427 or 424/423 BCE  to 348/347 BCE. He was born and died in Athens, and reached 80. He was a student of Socrates, and started a school of philosophy, the Academy, when he was around 40. Aristotle (384-322 BCE) was born in Stagirus, northern Greece. His father died when Aristotle was a child. At eighteen, he joined Plato’s […]

Theology in Freud and Lacan

 A Short Summary of the Arguments. In the struggle to find what sustains the psychological reality of religious belief as well as its deep rootedness, psychoanalysis loses its initial hostility against the phenomenon. Religion becomes a fascinating field to study from the psychoanalytic point of view. The development of the psychoanalytic interpretation of religion from Freud to Lacan shows how […]

Patton’s speech to the Third Army.

General George Patton’s speech to the US Third Army was given in 1944, prior to the landing in the Normandy. Patton tried to motivate the inexperienced Third Army for its pending combat duty and terrible losses. He pushed his soldiers to do their duty regardless of personal fear, challenging them to be aggressive and engage in constant offensive action. The […]