A Forum for and the Background of the Mediation of Dialogue in Ancient and Modern Academies

Monday, 16 July 2018

Pieces and Steps, and Further Pieces and Steps. Deserts and Oases.

Saturday, 3 March 2018


Yes. I found the right way to put Chrysippus and Marcus Aurelius side by side.
"Plasticity of the Present Moment".

No time, but lots of presence.

Yes, and yes, again. Paris. Did I say...yes?
  I had not intended to or imagined that I would turn from my work on pleasure to metaphysics (again) and a paper on Plato's Parmenides (and Plotinus) due to devastation in culture! Thank you so much Canada for giving me the right kick for that-- Any thing can be turned into a gift...Are we ready for the San Diego APA and Marcus Aurelius?

If only Plato would read this...culture (or lack of it) motivating one to return to metaphysics...

Monday, 19 February 2018

The (very) Good, the (very) Bad, and the Canadian

Cultural experiences of the last weeks as (sometimes beautiful) breaks in a busy term:

The excellent: Fritz Lang's "M". Different language versions. As with all excellence, it belongs to the entire world.

Peter Lorre in the magnificent last scene...the scene that the Nazis some years afterwards misused for their own purposes.

The very good: Anderson's new film The Phantom Thread, screened in many places in the world right now. The music by Greenwood (leading guitarist of Radiohead, and composer) still in my ears.
The very bad: Silence, Grand Theatre, London Ontario. Bad theatre could be written and staged at any place in the world.
The Canadian: The Abduction from the Seraglio (subtitle: on how to "kill" Mozart for the sake of "political correctness" and lack of modesty), COC Toronto. This is a Canadian product (it could not have been produced anywhere else), not of the sort I have experienced so far, but the worst cultural event in the country where I now live. One really needs to ask for details at COC in advance and before choosing the operas for the subscription, if one ever does it again and does not, instead, fly to Berlin, attend three operas, and come back after three days. Incredible that they went for treating an opera like a pizza, to be cut in pieces, interrupted by intermezzos of lowest level of added theatre writing (a la "All people have a heart and love, in both the West and the East"), and served to us, the customers. We might start sympathizing with Bentham...Which was greater? The KEG Mansion pleasure or the opera pleasure? Do not ask me which of the two was the aesthetic one, as I am wondering. As for the rest of my thought, I censor it.
Why can they (because a lot of mediocre elements had to be combined to create such a failure for Canada) not look upon Kurosawa's Ran? It does not matter where from one comes nor where one might go, but what one does and how one does it. What does Kurosawa do with his Ran and how does he do it? He transfers King Lear into the Japanese landscape. He does not dare call it "King Lear", though. And what do we get? Shining modesty and a shining masterpiece, to stand beside Shakespeare's work.

Recovering the Canadian Shock: Thank God (or gods, or Allah: am I enough politically correct?), there was the Broadcast of National Theatre UK this week and they brilliantly interpreted and performed Tennessee Williams' A Cat on a Hot Thin Roof (not my best of his, but, as all his pieces, excellent in penetrating human relationships). A particularly strong acting by o' Connell in the second act. I recovered from the lowest level served (yes, served) in Grand Theater London ON and COC Toronto. Now I am good, but still talk a lot about the cultural shocks.
Link to the Critique in Toronto Star:

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Teachers...Teachers...and Teachers...

ὁ νοῦν ἔχων γεωργός, ὧν σπερμάτων κήδοιτο καὶ ἔγκαρπα βούλοιτο γενέσθαι, πότερα σπουδῇ ἂν θέρους εἰς Ἀδώνιδος κήπους ἀρῶν χαίροι θεωρῶν καλοὺς ἐν ἡμέραισιν ὀκτὼ γιγνομένους, ἢ ταῦτα μὲν δὴ παιδιᾶς τε καὶ ἑορτῆς χάριν δρῴη ἄν, ὅτε καὶ ποιοῖ· ἐφ' οἷς δὲ ἐσπούδακεν, τῇ γεωργικῇ χρώμενος ἂν τέχνῃ, σπείρας εἰς τὸ προσῆκον, ἀγαπῴη ἂν ἐν ὀγδόῳ μηνὶ ὅσα ἔσπειρεν τέλος λαβόντα; (Phdr. 276b2-8). Plato's words for the philosopher as a patient farmer against the background of Van Gogh's Sower.

Thinking of teachers, I remember Lesley Brown at Somerville Oxford (thanks to her piece on totalitarianism in Plato's Republic that I am reading for my Republic seminar), someone who taught me (among other things) what it means to be a teacher in many ways, and she still does, in written work and beyond. How much I would like to turn back time (and I do not say this so often) and read the Nicomachean Ethics or the Republic and the Sophist with her, and experience again her delight in her student's progress, even if the student disagrees with her or Ackrill, the combination of her confidence and humility, and her analytical virtue for detail and her charisma to draw attention to details that change entire pictures and readings. How much I would like to turn back time for some more time at Somerville!

PS: We have been developing some solidarity with polar bears as of late. Finally, some real Canadian winter came to town. Plenty of opera in Toronto in the New Year. And lots of fun in Plato's Republic and other texts.
PPS1: On other Teachers...Daniel Day-Lewis plays in a new film by Anderson (second time working with him after his film There Will Be Blood), the Phantom Thread, and says it will be his last one. This is sufficient for the film happiness of the year, and may he, one of our dearest darling actors, play his first and last films again and again. For they are all his first and last films!

PPS2: Apropos teaching as learning and acting vs. mere imitating, and while waiting for Daniel to come to this province called London Ontario (now screened in Toronto)...Peter o' Toole as Lawrence of Arabia, which we enjoyed watching with the wonderful London cine-gang, made me think throughout the entire blooming length of the old epic film by David Lean (1963) that he must have been best on stage and, in particular, Shakespeare. I found out afterwards that he was a blessed stage actor and he did a lot of Shakespeare, for which he was ready already 1963. Alas, his version of Hamlet (directed by Olivier: just imagine that collaboration!) was not filmed. Fate in both the history of philosophy and art can be really ferocious!
And we, greedy hunters of beauty and truth, have to learn not only how to chase beauty or truth, that is *not*  like a piece of meat to be grasped and consumed (in a not musical manner, Plato would add) but also to take a step back and admire the beauty we have and the truth we attain, and also learn how to miss the beauty that is not accessible to us and how to anticipate the truth to be gained tomorrow and in the years to come, again in a musical manner. Greediness is not a sign of lovers of knowledge and beauty, even if they focus on the intelligible realm. This is not a statement about the ontology and epistemology of Plato's Line but a note to his sensitivity to beauty, which we so very much lack. And to lack such a good can only be...bad, right? And how worse do things become when we do not even notice?

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Bodily and Intellectual Pains and Pleasures

I gave a paper at McMaster last week. It was (large) part of the Phaedo paper on the philosophers' pleasures of learning, as it has become in the meantime, thanks to wise critical comments and even wiser, amazingly wiser, constructive proposals. It was the best Q&A I ever had. There were many relevant questions on the Platonic pleasure project, made not only by faculty members but also by very promising graduate students: having made heavy use of the Philebus, it had to be examined to what extent I tread carefully as I should, and also, to what extent my analysis of the relation between pleasure and pain in the case of bodily and intellectual pleasures (the ones related to learning, like examining or teaching) is sound. 

But I was also pushed beyond the boundaries of the paper, and in very interesting ways, though it does not always happen to get this particular combination: One question, asked by Mark Johnstone, concerned Socrates' cheerfulness. Having focused on the Socrates of the Philebus and the Phaedo, my Socrateses were to say the least quite knowledgeable. But what about the other versions? How were they motivated if not by the uplifting possibility of attaining knowledge (Apology's oracle and the Socratic interpretation; as of late line represented by Rusty Jones' Socrates Felix?)? That mystery the paper does not solve (if the right way to deal with mysteries is by solving them), definitely not. I do not turn to claims on happiness from claims about pleasure, given that I think that Plato is not an hedonist and even less a utilitarian. But could we say and think as possible that those less "cheerful" portrays of Socrates were motivated by the possibilities of being refuted, and this small bit of progress made in those cases?

There was another marvellous question, I think by far the best I have gotten so far when giving papers on Plato and other chaps: Let us imagine that Oedipus (the one after all "self-knowledge" has happened and the deeds that followed it) and Socrates are in the same room. What kind of therapy would Socrates offer him? Well, for sure I would not like to be present in that room! I doubt that Socrates and his excellent cognitive therapy of intellectual depression can help there. Are we going to deliver him to psychoanalysis? Before deciding, we need to think harder.

Did you know that Hans-Georg Gadamer taught for three consecutive years as visiting professor at McMaster? How small the world has always been, and open to dialogue!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Fruits of Patience

While the fall term was establishing itself in its frantic rhythms, and I was feeling more of a machine than a ghost, Stratford Ontario offered me the marvellous opportunity to experience two Shakespeare Classics again, and taste life's topsy-turviness from the comic and the tragic perspective: Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet. With all due respect to living the present moment and taking a delight in doing so, the acting was mostly disappointing, but I was motivated to watch some good, older performances with actors and actresses who were acting well instead of shouting lots. So all's well that ends well: Stratford was a (good) means to further good ends. Admittedly it is extremely daring and challenging to stage such classics. But why such a haste to stage Shakespeare? Why, for instance, turn a forty-year old actor into a Lear some years ago? Why such a rush, I am wondering.

And then European beauty entered (or in this case rather flooded) the scene in deed as beauty often does, seemingly suddenly, with a  film masterpiece and love letter to Van Gogh:

As for now, I am pleasantly anticipating some mesmerizing acting (one does not need more than two minutes to say that), King Lear, by Royal Shakespeare Company with Antony Sher in NYC next year:

While the term is coming to its end, I am working on Aristotle on Plato on pleasure (or how one becomes his own man by listening to another man), and, what a delight, on French, among other, much more important wonders. A couple of students amazed me. I am meeting and working with them so that the next steps are taken. I screened Malick's The Knight of Cups; perhaps Kurosawa's Idiot will follow.

PS: Three Women at the Spring, Picasso, and "a line going for a walk" (Klee's definition of drawing), or else, Portrait of an Equilibrist, Klee, MoMA NYC)

PPS: Avant-garde is alive, and not only to be found in museums. See, for instance, how a young Greek artist, Fikos, marries byzantine art and ancient Greek motives with street art, which he calls "contemporary byzantine art":

His Earth and Sky
(for more consider: http://fikos.gr/portfolio/?lang=en)

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Amidst Summer 2017. A Strange Weighing of Value

"Αν κάποιος παράξενος των αξιών ζυγιαστής με πειθανάγκαζε να διαλέξω αποκλειστικά μεταξύ Παπαδιαμάντη και Καρκαβίτσα θα έστεκα ευλαβικά μπροστά στον πρώτο, θα του φιλούσα το χέρι και θα ψήφιζα τον δεύτερο."
                                                                                                                              Κωστής Παλαμάς

There has not been that much time available for literature in this summer, but after reading and discussing some Karkavitsas (Τα Λόγια της Πλώρης) we cannot but disagree with Palamas' words, our poet who has been sensitive and always hitting the mark in his analyses of other poets. We would do it the other way round: if compelled to choose, we would kiss Karkavitsas' hand, show gratitude to him for his fairy stories and his dreamingly embellished language, turning a deaf ear to his naive nationalism, so characteristic of the end of the 19th century in Greece, and vote for Papadiamantis.

How new London seems to be, or, rather, how delighted I am to discover new corners in it after coming back home. A spirit of discovery and adventure moves my dreams when asleep and my feet when awake: the adventure of feeling at home. How did this perspective emerge?

Pleasure and hedonism is the nutritious meal served on the plate for work for the time being, accompanied by some stimulating comments made by a referee who invites me to think together two aspects I tried to keep separated. So my lacks are being filled. Finally and only one step before despair for culture in the part of the world we live in, a friend and cinephil started screening masterpieces in the small cinema he has created. I had not watched Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. Nor Murnau's Sunrise. Each and every scene in the latter I wished to interrupt and point to it: ὅδε ὁ κόσμος. I did not notice how time passed in the former; I wanted it to continue and wished to watch all his films in a row and without intermission: starting with The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail (like Noh theater, with the addition of the Shakespeare's fool, marching through Japanese landscape: the only type of nationalism that my taste embraces), moving to his Ikiru... Masters of beauty may lead the way; philosophers and non-philosophers.

Remnants of three Ionian windmills
I must discover Canada's spectacular nature, but I always postpone because of spending my leisure swimming in the Greek sea. The lovely loners, the polar bears of Churchill and other places, will have to wait.

No nature for now. Just work and culture. No Wagner at the COC this year, so no risk. I subscribed.