Month: October 2014

Kandinsky: Quotes, Paintings and a Free Ebook

Wassily Kandinsky was a Russian painter and visual theorist who generally considered the first abstract artist in the modern sense. Du Spirituel dans l’art was published in 1912. It outlined his views on color, composition and the duties that accompany creative ability. Ruskin he is not, but there are gems of wisdom in his manifesto. For some reason artists in the early twentieth century felt compelled to propound their vague and sometimes contradictory views on the purpose and nature of their craft. An aspiring creator or seasoned connoisseur can endure his pompous pontifications. Here I’ve provided a condensed version of Kandinsky’s classic, brief but occasionally melodramatic essay. I’ve even included pretty pictures, which, unfortunately are not in the kindle version. Enjoy.

Composition VII 1913

Composition VII, 1913.

“He will not be able, with sincerity, to say that such a passage gave him such visual impressions, or such a harmony roused in him such emotions. The effect of music is too subtle for words. And the same with this painting of Kandinsky’s.”

-Michael T.H Sadler

“It will be no easy matter to conquer this assumption that Primitive art is merely untrained Naturalism, but until it is conquered there seems little hope for a sympathetic understanding of the symbolist ideal.”

-Michael T.H Sadler

Blue Segment 21

Blue Segment, 1921

“Every work of art is the child of its age and, in many cases, the mother of our emotions. It follows that each period of culture produces an art of its own which can never be repeated. Efforts to revive the art-principles of the past will at best produce an art that is still-born. It is impossible for us to live and feel, as did the ancient Greeks. In the same way those who strive to follow the Greek methods in sculpture achieve only a similarity of form, the work remaining soulless for all time.”

“Those who could speak have said nothing, those who could hear have heard nothing. This condition of art is called “art for art’s sake.” This neglect of inner meanings, which is the life of colours, this vain squandering of artistic power is called “art for art’s sake.”

Black Grid 1922

Black Grid, 1922.

“Good drawing is drawing that cannot be altered without destruction of this inner value, quite irrespective of its correctness as anatomy, botany, or any other science.”

“Since colours and forms are well-nigh innumerable, their combination and their influences are likewise unending. The material is inexhaustible.”

“Sienkiewicz, in one of his novels, compares the spiritual life to swimming; for the man who does not strive tirelessly, who does not fight continually against sinking, will mentally and morally go under. In this strait a man’s talent (again in the biblical sense) becomes a curse—and not only the talent of the artist, but also of those who eat this poisoned food.”

Circles in a Circle

Circle Within a Circle, 1923.

“Every man who steeps himself in the spiritual possibilities of his art is a valuable helper in the building of the spiritual pyramid which will some day reach to heaven.”

“Form alone, even though totally abstract and geometrical, has a power of inner suggestion. A triangle (without the accessory consideration of its being acute-or obtuse-angled or equilateral) has a spiritual value of its own. In connection with other forms, this value may be somewhat modified, but remains in quality the same.”

In Blue 1922

In Blue, 1922

“For example, red may cause a sensation analogous to that caused by flame, because red is the colour of flame. A warm red will prove exciting, another shade of red will cause pain or disgust through association with running blood. In these cases colour awakens a corresponding physical sensation, which undoubtedly works upon the soul.”

“Some colours appear soft (rose madder), others hard (cobalt green, blue-green oxide), so that even fresh from the tube they seem to be dry.”

Black Accompaniment 1924

Black Accompaniment, 1924

“The adaptability of forms, their organic but inward variations, their motion in the picture, their inclination to material or abstract, their mutual relations, either individually or as parts of a whole; further, the concord or discord of the various elements of a picture, the handling of groups, the combinations of veiled and openly expressed appeals, the use of rhythmical or unrhythmical, of geometrical or non-geometrical forms, their contiguity or separation—all these things are the material for counterpoint in painting.”

Dominant Curve 1936

Dominant Curve, 1936

“(1) Every artist, as a creator, has something in him which calls for expression (this is the element of personality). (2) Every artist, as child of his age, is impelled to express the spirit of his age (this is the element of style)—dictated by the period and particular country to which the artist belongs (it is doubtful how long the latter distinction will continue to exist). (3) Every artist, as a servant of art, has to help the cause of art.”

“The spectator is too ready to look for a meaning in a picture—i.e., some outward connection between its various parts. Our materialistic age has produced a type of spectator or “connoisseur,” who is not content to put himself opposite a picture and let it say its own message.”

Various Parts 1940

Various Parts, 1940

“So long as artistry exists there is no need of theory or logic to direct the painter’s action. The inner voice of the soul tells him what form he needs, whether inside or outside nature.”

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The Life of John Stuart Mill: Transcript of the Documentary

JohnStuartMill

The video is here. There are, of course, minor discrepancies between the script and the video (e.g I chose to say one word instead of another based on how it sounded when read aloud).

John Stuart Mill was an English child prodigy who grew up to make seminal contributions to philosophy, economics, logic and political science. As an activist, public figure and member of parliament, he immersed himself in the practical aspects of domestic policy and diplomacy. He was a tireless and early champion of representative government, secularism, women’s rights, decentralization, economic freedom and personal liberty. Today many of his ideas are so widely accepted they seem commonplace, though they were radical at the time and, thanks to the breadth of his writings and the broadness of his thoughts, he has served as an inspiration to many disparate figures. John’s thought, which has entwined itself with the cultural fabric of the West, was shaped largely by his own quest for autonomy.

 

Born in London on May 20th, 1806. Son of James Mill, a Scottish intellectual and devout follower of Jeremy Bentham. The importance the elder Mill’s quest to turn his son into a genius at all costs cannot be underemphasized in an examination of John’s life. Nor can the influence of Jeremy Bentham.

 

Jeremy Bentham was a polymathic scholar and lifelong bachelor who dabbled in a sundry of unrelated ventures, among them a primitive telephone and a prison design he dubbed the Panopticon. Ironically the amount of debt he incurred pushing the Panopticon almost resulted in his own incarceration as a debtor. A child prodigy in his own right, he read a thick history of England as a toddler and began learning Latin at three. Though he studied to become a lawyer, he never practiced. Yet his legal training did not go to waste. He was an advocate for free speech, animal rights, the abolition of slavery, gender equality and, perhaps most offensive to his period’s sensibilities, the decriminalization of homosexuality. He and his followers were labeled radicals by mainstream English society because their ideas were not palatable to the Whigs or the Tories. Influenced by French philosophes like Voltaire, he exalted reason above custom and tradition. His empiricist psychology, dubbed associationism, attempted to explain consciousness by asserting that all mental phenomena is the result of the association of various perceptual elements. This view of the mind was elucidated upon further by James and later by John. Bentham views humans as little more than pleasure-maximizing robots and his ethical opinions reflect his outlook. According to his wishes, Bentham was mummified. His corpse now resides at University College in London.

 

Sadly, his soulless utilitarianism, which did not differentiate between types of pleasures, is often conflated with Mill’s more subtle views on ethics and morality.

 

As a boy James Mill was recognized for his precociousness. His gifts gained him the patronage of Sir John and Lady Jane Stuart. He was made the tutor of their daughter. James, like Sir Walter Scott and so many others, fell in love with her almost immediately. Yet it was not to be. She was the daughter of his aristocratic patrons. Here the seeds of his disdain for England’s social hierarchy were sown. Later James would name his daughter Wilhelmina after his forbidden love interest. He later became a Presbyterian minister, but his sermons were deemed too intellectual. He married Harriet Barrow in 1805. Together they had nine children. The family struggled financially before the publication of The History of India. As he so ardently hoped, his achievements would soon be eclipsed by his son’s. James is most famous now as the domineering father who molded his child into the perfect prodigy. Others have followed his example—with varying levels of success. It is possible James would not have tried to make John a morally and intellectually perfect man if he had not subscribed to such an epistemology which set nurture above nature. Although nominally an Epicurean and a radical, James never shook his Calvinist dedication to hard work or the traditional Christian conception of a woman’s place. As John would later recall, his father “professed the greatest contempt for passionate emotions.” Harriet was a housewife who rarely spoke and never dared challenge her husband. One of Mill’s sister called their marriage “an instance of two persons, a husband and wife, living as far apart, under the same roof, as the north pole from the south.” As a teacher James was stern and unrelenting, when his son found a text inscrutable James insisted he read it again. One contemporary said:

 

“The one really disagreeable trait in James Mill’s character, and the thing that has left the most painful memories, was the contemptuous way he allowed himself to speak and behave to his wife and children before visitors. When we read his letters to friends, we see him acting the family man with the utmost propriety, putting wife and children into their due place; but he seemed unable to observe this part in daily intercourse.”

 

Mill’s education is often depicted as incessant cramming, and while he was obliged to learn almost constantly through study or conversations with his father and the eminent visitors to the house, James knew rote memorization, though not without a place, was not conducive to cultivating deep and genuine understanding.

 

“A man who, in his own practice, so vigorously acted up to the principle of losing no time, was likely to adhere to the same rule in the instruction of his pupil. I have no remembrance of the time when I began to learn Greek; I have been told that it was when I was three years old. My earliest recollection on the subject, is that of committing to memory what my father termed vocables, being lists of common Greek words, with their signification in English, which he wrote out for me on cards. Of grammar, until some years later, I learnt no more than the inflections of the nouns and verbs, but, after a course of vocables, proceeded at once to translation…

Much of it consisted in the books I read by myself, and my father’s discourses to me, chiefly during our walks. From 1810 to the end of 1813 we were living in Newington Green, then an almost rustic neighbourhood. My father’s health required considerable and constant exercise, and he walked habitually before breakfast, generally in the green lanes towards Hornsey. In these walks I always accompanied him, and with my earliest recollections of green fields and wild flowers, is mingled that of the account I gave him daily of what I had read the day before. To the best of my remembrance, this was a voluntary rather than a prescribed exercise. I made notes on slips of paper while reading, and from these in the morning walks, I told the story to him; for the books were chiefly histories, of which I read in this manner a great number: Robertson’s histories, Hume, Gibbon; but my greatest delight, then and for long afterwards, was Watson’s Philip the Second and Third.

In these frequent talks about the books I read, he used, as opportunity offered, to give me explanations and ideas respecting civilization, government, morality, mental cultivation, which he required me afterwards to restate to him in my own words. He also made me read, and give him a verbal account of, many books which would not have interested me sufficiently to induce me to read them of myself.”

He was raised in a secular household, of his father John wrote, “finding, therefore, no halting place in Deism, he remained in a state of perplexity, until, doubtless after many struggles, he yielded to the conviction, that concerning the origin of things nothing whatever can be known. This is the only correct statement of his opinion; for dogmatic atheism he looked upon as absurd.”

 

From a tender age John helped his father edit ponderous tomes and official papers. In childhood he composed histories of England and of Roman government. By 14 he had read most of the classics of antiquity and by 16 was acquainted with economics, politics, history, higher mathematics, logic and all branches of philosophy. In this same year he began working for the East India Company. Though it was not an especially prestigious position, it gave him enough time to pursue his other interests while making a comfortable income. It was not an easy job; he produced two thick volumes on behalf of the company every year, and while the workload may have burdened a less industrious intellect, Mill continued to work and to write books until the company was disbanded following the Sepoy Revolt of 1857. These accomplishments did not puff him up. No one ever described him as arrogant. This is partially due to the strange and arguably abusive parenting methods of James Mill, who made sure his child never felt in any way special or unique. In his Autobiography he recalls this without bitterness.

 

“[my father] completely succeeded in preserving me from the sort of influences he so much dreaded. I was not at all aware that my attainments were anything unusual at my age. If I accidentally had my attention drawn to the fact that some other boy knew less than myself–which happened less often than might be imagined–I concluded, not that I knew much, but that he, for some reason or other, knew little, or that his knowledge was of a different kind from mine. My state of mind was not humility, but neither was it arrogance. I never thought of saying to myself, I am, or I can do, so and so. I neither estimated myself highly nor lowly: I did not estimate myself at all. If I thought anything about myself, it was that I was rather backward in my studies, since I always found myself so, in comparison with what my father expected from me. “

 

Although he always insisted he was below average in all natural endowments and his only advantage was his willingness to learn from anyone about anything, and had achieved what he had entirely thanks to his carefully managed childhood, it’s obvious his father chose him  among his 9 children because of the promise he displayed and, as we have seen, James himself did not lack innate talent. H.R Bourne and other friends of the adult John Stuart Mill were struck by his powers of memory which, though highly trained, were likely unusually powerful from the beginning.

 

“Nothing escaped his notice at the time of its occurrence: nothing was forgotten by him afterwards. His friends often found, to their astonishment, that he knew far more about any passages in their lives that he had been made aware of than they could themselves remember; and, whenever that disclosure was made to them, they must have been rejoiced to think, that this memory of his, instead of being, as it might well have been, a dangerous garner of severe judgments and fairly-grounded prejudices, was a magic mirror, in which their follies and foibles were hardly at all reflected, and only kindly reminiscences and generous sympathies found full expression.”

 

Oxford would have been a welcome reprieve, yet he had no reason to attend. It was still customary then to swear allegiance to the Anglican Church before admission, something John, who had been raised as a skeptic, objected to on principle. He was already employed, financially stable and had completed the equivalent of an undergraduate education by the age of nine. His teen years were spent paying lip service to the Benthamic radicals, but increasingly he was finding fault with their beliefs. More and more he longed to declare independence from them, to gain autonomy, a concept which would later play a central role in his life and thought. At age 20 he suffered a nervous breakdown. He later used an excerpt from Coleridge’s poetry to describe his torpor.

 

“A grief without a pang, void, dark and drear,
A drowsy, stifled, unimpassioned grief,
Which finds no natural outlet or relief
In word, or sigh, or tear.”

 

Then, more prosaically in his Autobiography, chronicled his depression and its unexpected resolution.

 

“It was in the autumn of 1826. I was in a dull state of nerves, such as everybody is occasionally liable to; unsusceptible to enjoyment or pleasurable excitement; one of those moods when what  is pleasure at other times, becomes insipid or indifferent; the state, I should think, in which converts to Methodism usually are, when smitten by their first ‘conviction of sin.’ In this frame of mind it occurred to me to put the question directly to myself: ‘Suppose that all your objects in life were realized; that all the changes in institutions and opinions which you are looking forward to, could be completely effected at this very instant: would this be a great joy and happiness to you?’ And an irrepressible self-consciousness distinctly answered, ‘No!’ At this my heart sank within me: the whole foundation on which my life was constructed fell down. All my happiness was to have been found in the continual pursuit of this end. The end had ceased to charm, and how could there ever again be any interest in the means? I seemed to have nothing left to live for.

I was reading, accidentally, Marmontel’s Mémoires, and came to the passage which relates his father’s death, the distressed position of the family, and the sudden inspiration by which he, then a mere boy, felt and made them feel that he would be everything to them–would supply the place of all that they had lost. A vivid conception of the scene and its feelings came over me, and I was moved to tears. From this moment my burden grew lighter.”

 

Dr. A.W Levi believes Mill’s crisis was brought on by a sublimated desire to rebel against his father’s authority.

 

“In reading Marmontel’s account John could in the process of identification and without guilt bring to full consciousness the idea that his father in the natural course of things would some day die, and that he himself would assume the dominating role…in experiencing his father’s death and the freedom which this would mean to his own ego, but under the literary and imaginative circumstances which would absolve him of the guilty wishes themselves,

Mill brought to the surface of his consciousness what had hitherto been laboriously repressed, and by his cathartic act spontaneously found the real solution for his mental crisis”

Dr. Peter Glassman claims Mill’s crisis forced him to “think and live in a healthier way. Specifically it forced him to acknowledge and repudiate the loneliness and the suffering that always before he had felt himself obliged to conceal and accept.” The following decade was quiet but fecund. His twenties were spent absorbing and assimilating, partially out of insecurity and uncertainty, and partially to avoid the censure of the older utilitarians if he published something which strayed from far from the orthodoxy. He continued to read widely and befriended many of the most eminent men of the age, including Thomas Carlyle, to whom he wrote:

 

“I am often in a state almost of scepticism, and have no theory of Human Life at all, or seem to have conflicting theories, or a theory which does not amount to a Belief. This is only a recent state, and as I well know, a passing one, and my convictions will be firmer and the result of a larger experience when I emerge from this state, than before.”

 

As it so often happened, he was right.

 

“I have what for a considerable time was quite suspended in me, the feeling of growth. I feel myself much more knowing, more seeing, having a far greater experience of realities, not abstractions, than ever before, nor do I doubt that this superior knowledge will make itself available in the form of greater power, for accomplishing whatever work I may be called to, shall I say also for choosing the work which I most worthily perform.”

 

In 1836 James Mill passed away from a series of “pulmonary attacks” likely brought on by tuberculosis. John, now 30, was grief stricken. He suffered several sympathetic pulmonary episodes of his own. He had lost the person who had overseen, and to large extent controlled, the development of his mind and manners. He had lost and parent and a part of himself, a very large part of himself. Yet he pulled himself out of his depression and, ultimately, the passing of the old despot who had given, and taken, so much from him, would finally allow John Stuart Mill to become his own man.

 

In 1838 his Essay on Bentham was published, the man who blithely proclaimed: “prejudice apart, the game of push-pin is of equal value with the arts and sciences of music and poetry.” Mill had struggled for most of his life to repress and then later, come to terms with, his objections to this cold and narrow view of existence. Although he always admired Betham’s willingness to question authority, he fully admitted to his old idol’s shortcomings:

 

“Bentham’s knowledge of human nature is bounded. It is wholly empirical; and the empiricism of one who has had little experience. He had neither internal experience nor external; the quiet, even tenor of his life, and his healthiness of mind, conspired to exclude him from both. He never knew prosperity and adversity, passion nor satiety. He never had even the experiences which sickness gives; he lived from childhood to the age of eighty-five in boyish health. He knew no dejection, no heaviness of heart. He never felt life a sore and a weary burthen. He was a boy to the last.”

 

His essay on Coleridge, published two years later, was part of the reconciliation of his heart and mind. Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s poetry, for Mill, was the antidote to his predominantly austere childhood and his analytical education. The art and philosophies of the Romantics gave him a deeper appreciation for the beauty of the natural world and his own emotions. More than once he lamented the English tendency to conceal strong feelings. His salvation would not come in the form of poetry or prose. In 1830 he met a bright, striking, articulate and married woman named Harriet Taylor. He was smitten with her from the beginning. The feeling soon became mutual, but to avoid scandal they did not indulge in any physical contact. Her husband was aware of their affections for one another. This put some strain on their marriage, but less than one would expect. Harriet resided in a separate residence with her daughter from 1833 onward. There was a quiet understanding between the three parties until Mr. Taylor’s death in 49. John and Harriet wed two years later.

 

During their lengthy and allegedly sexless ffair Mill composed some of his best known works. His Principles of Political Economy, not surprisingly, touched upon matters of political and social significance. He is remembered as a transitional figure and as the last great classical economist. Though Principles of Political Economy was the standard textbook on the subject for nearly half a century, today he is glossed over in introductory courses. This is primarily because he did not specialize in one area. He contributed to comparative advantage in international trade, opportunity cost, and to theories of innovation. Unlike his predecessors he paid attention not merely to the creation of wealth, but to its distribution. Moreover, he was among the first to see the difficulties involved with predicting economic phenomenon, and thus situated himself midway between Malthus’s gloomy predictions of population growth outpacing production and Adam Smith’s sunny world of laissez faire, thus, in a sense, setting a precedent for more sophisticated analysis of complex systems. He wisely proposed multiple outcomes depending on the rate at which technology developed and other unforeseen variables. As well as pointing on inequities, he went so far as to attack the dogma of growth for growth’s sake:

 

“I confess I am not charmed with the ideal of life held out by those who think that the normal state of human beings is that of struggling to get on; that the trampling, crushing, elbowing, and treading on each other’s heels, which form the existing type of social life, are the most desirable lot of humankind, or anything but the disagreeable symptoms of one of the phases of industrial progress.”

 

Needless to say, he did not care for social Darwinism. Hlthough he disagreed with Herbert Spencer, its leading prophet, he assisted financially in the publication of his Principles of Philosophy. Spencer would, years later, recall this event a tribute to Mill.

 

Though deeply influenced by David Ricardo, a regular visitor to his childhood home, he did see potential problems with free markets, although he also recognized the pitfalls of collectivist economies and various taxation schemes. Throughout his life he argued in favor of entrepreneurship and capitalism insofar as they were the best way to insure personal autonomy, the cornerstone of his ethics. It has been contended his wife softened his view of socialism. It was because of her a chapter on labor was added to his Principles of Political Economy. Yet a mind as broad as his, which made a habit out of studying the opinions of its opponents in more depth than its own, would likely have given it a fair hearing with or without her influence. He sees its virtues and its flaws:

 

“It is the common error of Socialists to overlook the natural indolence of mankind; their tendency to be passive, to be the slaves of habit, to persist indefinitely in a course once chosen…Competition may not be the best conceivable stimulus, but it is at present a necessary one, and no one can foresee the time when it will not be indispensable to progress.”

 

Earlier in his career he asserted:

 

“All who are on a level with their age now readily admit that government ought not to interdict men from publishing their opinions, pursuing their employments, or buying and selling their goods, in whatever place or manner they deem the most advantageous. Beyond suppressing force and fraud, governments can seldom, without doing more harm than good, attempt to chain up the free agency of individuals”

In his Principles of Political Economy he propounds his views on women’s suffrage. However, even his opus on logic contained passages dedicated to moral and political philosophy, in A System of Logic he argues in favor of individual freedoms and public education. Logic in Western thought was still concerned primarily with syllogisms and deduction from first principles. Although Bacon, Hume and others served as forerunners, A System of Logic stands as a powerful and formal exposition of induction, and Mill’s methods stand the test of time as a means of establishing causality. The first of the five states “if two or more instances of the phenomenon under investigation have only one circumstance in common, the circumstance in which alone all the instances agree, is the cause (or effect) of the given phenomenon.”

Unlike his own mother, who remained always in the background while James instructed the children and discussed matters of importance with the other radicals, Harriet actively and eloquently participated in conversation with him and his guests. In her he found a lover, a friend, a confidante. Most of all, unlike she was an equal who he trusted to help him write and edit a number of his best known works.

 

Harriet passed away in 1858. It is difficult to fathom what a blow this was for him. He loved her passionately until the end. Minor quibbles aside, there is no evidence to suggest their marriage was anything but loving or they anything but devout to each other. She was the saving grace of his life. Her daughter, Helen, who would become an actress, kept in contact with Mill until his death at the age of sixty six. He did not remarry or, as far as anyone can tell, develop a romantic relationship with another woman during his twenty years as a widower.

 

“Were I but capable of interpreting to the world,” he wrote of Harriet, “one half the great thoughts and noble feelings which are buried in her grave, I should be the medium of a greater benefit to it, than is ever likely to arise from anything that I can write, unprompted and unassisted by her all but unrivalled wisdom.”

 

During this period he dedicated himself to postulating his views on representative government, liberty and the individual’s relationship to society. In On Liberty Mill argued ferociously for personal freedoms, but towards the end of the piece advocated for compulsory public education and tests for voting rights:

“Once in every year the examination should be renewed, with a gradually extending range of subjects, so as to make the universal acquisition, and what is more, retention, of a certain minimum of general knowledge, virtually compulsory. Beyond that minimum, there should be voluntary examinations on all subjects, at which all who come up to a certain standard of proficiency might claim a certificate.”

 

Moreover, he was not without a certain elitism, as evinced in some of his private letters to Harriet. He recognized the pivotal point gifted people play in moving civilization forward. To what end in particular he did not say, as he disagreed sharply all teleologies, including Auguste Comte’s.

 

“Persons of genius, it is true, are, and are always likely to be, a small minority; but in order to have them, it is necessary to preserve the soil in which they grow. Genius can only breathe freely in an atmosphere of freedom. Persons of genius are, ex vi termini, more individual than any other people—less capable, consequently, of fitting themselves, without hurtful compression, into any of the small number of moulds which society provides in order to save its members the trouble of forming their own character. If from timidity they consent to be forced into one of these moulds, and to let all that part of themselves which cannot expand under the pressure remain unexpanded, society will be little the better for their genius. “

 

“As it is useful that while mankind are imperfect there should be different opinions, so is it that there should be different experiments of living; that free scope should be given to varieties of character, short of injury to others; and that the worth of different modes of life should be proved practically, when anyone thinks fit to try them.”

 

For his dedication to women’s rights Mill was cruelly mocked by newspapers and viciously criticized by his fellow intellectuals.  In The Subjection of Women, he argued  “the legal subordination of one sex to another – is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a system of perfect equality, admitting no power and privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other…

I consider it presumption in anyone to pretend to decide what women are or are not, can or cannot be, by natural constitution. They have always hitherto been kept, as far as regards spontaneous development, in so unnatural a state, that their nature cannot but have been greatly distorted and disguised; and no one can safely pronounce that if women’s nature were left to choose its direction as freely as men’s, and if no artificial bent were attempted to be given to it except that required by the conditions of human society, and given to both sexes alike, there would be any material difference, or perhaps any difference at all, in the character and capacities which would unfold themselves.”

 

Mill spent the remainder of his life in Avignon, close to his wife’s grave.  He passed away in 1873 and was buried beside her. The grave would serve as a tourist spot throughout the Victorian era. For, in spite of his association with Bentham and the radicals, he was, in the words of one biographer, “the last great Romantic.” His death was met with many tributes from those he had inspired:

 

“He may have blundered and stumbled in his pursuit of truth; but it was part of his belief that stumbling and blundering are necessary means towards the finding of truth, and that honesty of purpose is the only indispensable requisite for the nearest approach towards truth of which each individual is capable. That belief rendered him as charitable towards others as he was modest concerning his own attainments. He never boasted; and he despised no one. The only things really hateful to him were arrogance and injustice, and for these he was, to say the least, as willing and eager to find excuse as could be the most devout utterer of the prayer, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ We had noted many instances, coming within our own very limited observation, of his remarkable, almost unparalleled magnanimity and generosity; but such details would here be almost out of place, and they who need such will doubtless before long receive much more convincing proof of his moral excellence.”

He should not be remembered merely as a man who thought deeply, but one who felt deeply as well.

 

Works Cited:

Capaldi, Nicholas. John Stuart Mill: A Biography. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004. Print.

Glassman, Peter J. J.S. Mill: The Evolution of a Genius. Gainesville: U of Florida, 1985. Print.

Mill, John Stuart, and David Spitz. On Liberty. New York: Norton, 1975. Print.

Mill, John Stuart, and Jack Stillinger. John Stuart Mill: Autobiography. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004. Print.

Mill, John Stuart, and Oskar Piest. Utilitarianism. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1957. Print.

Mill, John Stuart, and W. J. Ashley. Principles of Political Economy, with Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy. New York: A.M. Kelley, eller, 1965. Print.

Mill, John Stuart. On the Subjection of Women. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications, 1971. Print.

Mill, John Stuart. A System of Logic: Ratiocinative and Inductive. London: Longmans, Green, 1949. Print.

Strathern, Paul. J.S. Mill in 90 Minutes. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2002. Print.

Excerpts from Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung

 Man and His Symbols is a compilation of essays by Jung and others on the interpretation of dreams, behavior and myths. It follows the thread one finds throughout Dr. Jung’s corpus: fables and fairy tales, though they may appear infantile or simply bizarre, are not merely primitive explanations for natural phenomena, but deeply meaningful parts of the unconscious.

“Since dreams produce different scenes and images every night, people who are not careful observers will probably be unaware of any pattern. But if one watches one’s own dreams over a period of years and studies the entire sequence, one will see that certain contents emerge, disappear, and then turn up again. Many people even dream repeatedly of the same figures, landscapes, or situations; and if one follows these through a whole series, one will see that they change slowly but perceptibly.”

“Our dream life allows us to have a look at these subliminal perceptions and shows us that they have an effect upon us.”

A controversial assertion by one of the contributors:

“Practical experience and accurate observation show that one cannot influence one’s own dreams. There are people, it is true, who assert that they can influence them. But if you look into their dream material, you find that they do only what I do with my disobedient dog: I order him to do those things I notice he wants to do anyhow, so that I can preserve my illusion of authority.”

“But the fact that his unconscious for its own purposes has chosen one of these specific images— it may be the key, the stick, or the battering ram— is also of major significance. The real task is to understand why the key has been preferred to the stick, or the stick to the ram.”

“It is true that there are dreams and single symbols (I should prefer to call them “motifs”) that are typical and often occur. Among such motifs are falling, flying, being persecuted by dangerous animals or hostile men, being insufficiently or absurdly clothed in public places, being in a hurry or lost in a milling crowd, fighting with useless weapons or being wholly defenseless, running hard yet getting nowhere.”

“When an individual makes an attempt to see his shadow, he becomes aware of (and often ashamed of) those qualities and impulses he denies in himself but can plainly see in other people—such things as egotism, mental laziness, and sloppiness; unreal fantasies, schemes, and plots; carelessness and cowardice; inordinate love of money and possessions— in short, all the little sins about which he might previously have told himself : ‘That doesn’t matter; nobody will notice it, and in any case other people do it too.’  If you feel an overwhelming rage coming up in you when a friend reproaches you about a fault, you can be fairly sure that at this point you will find a part of your shadow…”

“But what can you say if your own dreams—an inner judge in your own being— reproach you? That is the moment when the ego gets caught, and the result is usually embarrassed silence. Afterward the painful and lengthy work of self-education begins— a work, we might say, that is the psychological equivalent of the labors of Hercules. This unfortunate hero’s first task, you will remember , was to clean up in one day the Augean Stables, in which hundreds of cattle had dropped their dung for many decades— a task so enormous that the ordinary mortal would be overcome by discouragement at the mere thought of it.”

“Women who are of ‘fairy-like’ character especially attract such anima projections, because men can attribute almost anything to a creature who is so fascinatingly vague, and can thus proceed to weave fantasies around her. The projection of the anima in such a sudden and passionate form as a love affair can greatly disturb a man’s marriage and can lead to the so-called ‘human triangle,’ with its accompanying difficulties. A bearable solution to such a drama can be found only if the anima is recognized as an inner power.”

Senecio by Paul Klee

“Man today is painfully aware of the fact that neither his great religions nor his various philosophies seem to provide him with those powerful animating ideas that would give him the security he needs in face of the present condition of the world. I know what the Buddhists would say: Things would go right if people would only follow the ‘noble eightfold path’ of the Dharma (doctrine, law) and had true insight into the Self. The Christian tells us that if only people had faith in God, we should have a better world. The rationalist insists that if people were intelligent and reasonable, all our problems would be manageable. The trouble is that none of them manages to solve these problems himself.”

Regarding the dreams of a young girl who died shortly after the events took place:

“In the second dream, a motif appears that is definitely non-Christian and that contains a reversal of accepted values— for instance, pagan dances by men in heaven and good deeds by angels in hell. This symbol suggests a relativity of moral values. Where did the child find such a revolutionary notion, worthy of Nietzsche’s genius?

What is the compensatory meaning of these dreams, to which the little girl obviously attributed so much importance that she presented them to her father as a Christmas present?”

“I vividly recall the case of a professor who had had a sudden vision and thought he was insane. He came to see me in a state of complete panic. I simply took a 400 -year-old book from the shelf and showed him an old woodcut depicting his very vision. ‘There’s no reason for you to believe that you’re insane,’ I said to him. ‘They knew about your vision 400 years ago. Whereupon he sat down entirely deflated, but once more normal.”

“When I found the similar passage in Thus Spake Zarathustra, I was struck by its peculiar style, which was different from Nietzsche’s usual language. I was convinced that Nietzsche must also have seen the old book, though he made no reference to it. I wrote to his sister, who was still alive, and she confirmed that she and her brother had in fact read the book together when he was 11 years old. I think, from the context, it is inconceivable that Nietzsche had any idea that he was plagiarizing this story. I believe that fifty years later it had.”

“From a practical angle this factor reveals itself in that an individual who follows his dreams for a considerable time will find that they are often concerned with his relationships with other people. His dreams may warn him against trusting a certain person too much, or he may dream about a favorable and agreeable meeting with someone whom he may previously have never consciously noticed.”

The Burning Giraffe by Salvador Dali

“If we look at surrealist pictures (like Salvador Dali’s The Burning Giraffe) with this in mind, we may feel the wealth of their fantasy and the overwhelming power of their unconscious imagery, but we realize the horror and the symbolism of the end of all things that speaks from many of them. The unconscious is pure nature , and, like nature, pours out its gifts in profusion.”

“To Franz Marc, abstraction offered a refuge from the evil and ugliness in this world. ‘Very early in life I felt that man was ugly . The animals seemed to be more lovely and pure, yet even among them I discovered so much that was revolting and hideous that my painting became more and more schematic and abstract.'”

“Even evil must not be a triumphant or degrading enemy, but a power collaborating in the whole.”

-Paul Klee

“If a young person is afraid of life and finds it hard to adjust to reality, he might prefer to dwell in his fantasies or to remain a child. In such a young person (especially if he is introverted) one can sometimes discover unexpected treasures in the unconscious, and by bringing them into consciousness strengthen his ego and give him the psychic energy he needs to grow into a mature person”

To an Antique Land: A Scifi Short

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The streets are quiet now. They’ve been removed. Harmony permeates a prosperous civilization. What is outside of it is not noble. I cannot now fathom what malfunction could have let me leave the pyramid. The renounced paradise is not far. It surrounds me. The dissonance between my selves is crushing. Such an unbridgeable gap should not be possible. It would be abysmal to die here, though I felt the same way about my old rarefied abode.

The world into which I was born is not unlike this one. At my daughter’s insistence my brain was put on ice. My first robotic body was not agreeable to me, so I returned to stasis. Little pleasure could be had while residing in an insensate hunk of metal. The federal designers hadn’t mastered bipedalism. Another fifty years elapsed before I was reawoken. My consciousness resided in an android’s frame for the next twenty years. It was splendid to see my family again. My children were still partially carbon-based, though what little was left of their old bodies was being replaced by the twenty second century’s latest fabrics and fibers. During the final border dispute many civilians rode out the storm in hard drives in hidden bunkers. Machines piloted by sophisticated programs determined the ultimate outcome. It was fought over a trifle regarding international AI standards.

When we were humanely removed from our concrete caves we only briefly thought of who won or when. It didn’t seem important. The world had been terraformed. It was level and plain, cleansed of microbes and parasites. In the interest of peace, we were, like all former humans, uploaded into the mainframe. Any entities outside of the virtual realm only risked disrupting perpetual peace. We were forced to enter, but not obliged to stay. At will we could ascend and commune with the alternate realities existing on the computer. Unamplified consciousness is like a slender spotlight searching for an object to illuminate. I had no single sensation set: no single pair of eyes, no single pair of ears, no single pair of hemispheres. A center of sorts, yes, but without the constraints of my laughably obsolete neocortex. The blueprint of my body was absent. Disembodied, I lived thousands of lives on thousands separate planes before rising from the base. They pulled me up. There one is not a mere series of persons; one becomes a sequence of simulations running all at once, one becomes every aspect of each and every simulation.

While observing the mind of one virtual denizen who had become advanced enough to make something like the pyramid in which I found myself, my attention suddenly turned to a hairy auburn dodecahedron preparing a misty amethyst colored drink for his spinning three-headed overlord who sat atop the levitating sarcophagus of his slain cousin (who was the congealed essence of his pet fish’s nightmares). Was I ever so finite? My early years were foggy for the longest time. I felt, at the lower levels of the summit, a brief sense of longing for what had transpired before being immortalized. I could access them, but no longer desired to do so. It troubled me. It haunted me. Had something been left behind? A body was created atom by atom outside. In a simulation the temptation to cheat is always too strong. There was a town only a hundred miles away inhabited by unmodified homo sapiens. After the subatomic manipulator had generated the right elements, atom by atom an absolutely average body wrapped in a white t-shirt was assembled. Then my banal avatar was whisked away by a pod.

A crash would make a more dramatic entrance than a gentle thud. A few faces gathered around the smokeless crater. Frightened or indifferent pedestrians continued trodding their well-worn paths as I climbed out of my vessel and watched it decompose. They were not altogether phased; they had not forgotten what was all around them, though there were no references to it in their newspapers. A lanky woman wearing a plaid jacket too large for her frame glanced over at me in the cafe. Her word processor was as blank as the expression on her face, yet there was something inviting about the way her eyes showed no resolve. This is what I had been missing: the pure elation of being imperfectly absorbed into another person’s universe in an intimate and precarious fashion, to be placed in a story in which things were not merely computed, but experienced in a gloriously human manner. Practical omnipotence is oppressive, near omniscience even more so. Though others, obviously, find them liberating.

The sidewalks are lined with faces hastily cobbled together by meiotic baccarat. The two ladies onstage were challenging the definition of art, they said. They were commenting on relationships and the drudgery of suburban life. Announcing their arbitrary likes and dislikes is of the highest importance. To what end no one can say. These men and women cannot count foresight among their virtues. Plastered with concerns over the aesthetics or morality of pieces of pop culture. Musings about the personalities of public figures also are prominent parts of this nightmarish jigsaw puzzle. Let’s never forget that digitally altered photos, though the public demands them because they do not induce emesis, are the scourge of humanity. They must be fought with tooth and claw. The comedians in this cavalcade of genetic rejects complaining about the state of romantic relationships.

“If you say pumpkin spice three times in front of a mirror a white girl will appear and start telling you about how she ‘can’t even.’ Am I right?” The man on stage was exceedingly proud of his joke. I could not take it any longer.

“How is this funny?”

“What do you mean? It’s freaking hilarious.”

“No, it’s not. Nothing anyone here has said is even slightly insightful. They’re just perpetuating stereotypes and giving their asinine opinions about problems that could be fixed overnight. Your categories are meaningless. Your emotions are crude and uncontrolled; your exertions destructive or unnecessary. Your ‘noble crusades’ are ineffective byproducts of your own neuroses. Your thoughts are plain and unremarkable. Your loftiest visions are infantile. The things that occupy your minds, even the ’intellectual’ subjects your society feigns an interest in are pablum. Your culture is dialectical to the point of being excruciatingly predictable. You are all too fixated on the past and too (ironically, given your fixation on the past) keen on making the present supreme, as if it is not doomed to pass away, as if there is no room for improvement, as if change is not inevitable. It’s dreadful. I could simulate every person here perfectly with an infinitesimal fraction of the processing power I was allotted a few weeks ago. The power I forsook for this…for this place where you all pretend to revel in your tragedies and deformities instead of removing them…”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s all artificial out there. This is real, you bourgeois tool.”

“Can you fathom what was once accessible to me? What could be accessible to you? No more than paramecium can know the workings of your mind. Are you all going to go on hurling historical factoids at one another until the end of time? I could forgive all of these things if any of you had even a shred of humility. You have created cults of ignorance, formal and informal, religious and secular, rooted in the most primitive structures of the brain, which, in spite of the enormous suffering it inflicts on itself and others, is exalted, out of fear of the unknown, as ‘natural’ and correct.”

I began walking away from the town. The lady in plaid, though she seemed quite offended, returned to her phone and posted an update on one of her social media accounts. The pyramid would be little more than a holographic masturbatorium if it could not rescue those who worked so hard to make it possible.  I proposed we rescue the minds of those who came before us by moving back in time. This technology had been perfected years before in order to avoid the eventual death of the cosmos. The earth could be sent back to a kinder period in our universe’s history. Backwards we went, collecting their minds wirelessly. From the foot soldiers of Agincourt to the travelers who left their footprints at Laetoli. There, sitting at the dawn of our species, was the pyramid, holding all humans and all the memories of humankind. The level ground stretches out into the distance, but within the towering steel structure shine galaxies. Galaxies finally free.

An Interview with House Candidate Roy Carl Stanley

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Why do you want to run for office and for what office are you running?

Honestly I am the last person that would want to run for office but I saw a desperate need for change and no one caring enough to fight for what was right so I took a stand. I am running for US House Representative in Texas.

Why did you choose a third party ticket?

Through active protests and fund raising in my community I kept running into people from the Green Party, who I knew little about. Eventually I took the time to look at their “10 Key Value” platform and realized that anyone on this planet that knew what Greens stood for would be a Green. I always saw myself as a Democrat but after becoming a Green I realized the difference between supporting change “it’s be nice to have better energy” and living it “there is no other way!” Also I became increasingly aware of what we call “workfare labor” which is where you are forced to work to live or die. Democrats talk about creating jobs with construction but those are not sustainable jobs, those people are let go when the projects are done and it’s back to being starving and homeless again. What good is a government if it cannot protect you from its own rules? We all deserve the basic needs for survival.

What do you want to achieve if elected?

There are a few things I want to put in motion when I get elected and I fear I won’t be in office long enough to tackle much since the US doesn’t have a strong history of accepting heavy change. First I will give back 100k of my congressional salary to my community to encourage the removal of money from politics as I think it is a conflict of interest. Then I will write a bill to force the military to take mandatory operation breaks every few years so that the billions invested in those operations can be put towards scientific advancements and free higher education. lastly I will write several bills to put age related disease in the law as a disability that calls for medication and research funding. It’s not acceptable to let people die when we know we can cure them and help them live long healthy lives. There are many, many issues I care deeply about but those are the ones I will make the most waves with and if I’m lucky enough to get another go around, you can bet I’m going to shift some paradigms.

How do you hope to improve the economy and create jobs?

Jobs are in no shortage, its jobs that sustain you in this economy that are short. I plan to contract Chinese companies , in lieu of paying our debt, to build mass communities of recycled houses that people can live in for free and go to school for free on free internet. Having that basic resource, no matter how cramped, will encourage young people to save money, get educated and stay out of debt- no matter if they are working vocationally part time or in a profession full time. It will also give young families the chance to raise their children in the early years with out being forced to hire someone else to do it for them.

As a Green Party candidate surely you have strong opinions about the environment. What should the government do to control pollution and maintain the biosphere?

It won’t be long before we are forced to trade up for electric cars anyway so the fossil fuel crisis can only do us good. As for cleaning up the air we have destroyed so far I can say it would be advantageous to educate people on what plants promote the healthiest atmosphere. Oxygen creation from plants is directly connected with how fast they grow and how big the leaves are. There are also some plants that eat pollution. By encouraging people to buy and plant more oxygen-heavy plants and focusing our research on ways to grow plants more efficiently, such as aeroponic farming and artificial photosynthesis, we should be back on track in no time,

PRL-8-53: The Social Nootropic

prgal

PRL-8-53 (methyl 3-[2-[benzyl(methyl)amino]ethyl]benzoate) is a nootropic drug discovered by Dr. Nikolaus Hansl of Creighton University. Since he patented it in the 1970’s only one clinical trial with humans has been conducted. Based on the study one can conclude it improves recall and verbal memory. Personal accounts on websites like Reddit and Longecity are consistent with one another and corroborate the original findings. Derived from benzoic acid and benzylamine, it chemically and pharmacologically unrelated to the racetams. Although its precise mechanism of action has not been fully elucidated, it is known to act upon several neurotransmitters at once, mostly notably the cholinergic. As Hansl wrote, “retrieval of information that has been accumulated over a period of time, seems mediated by acetylcholine and the cholinergic system.”

PRL-8-53 stories have two fascinating and recurring themes: enhanced recall of events experienced under its influence and a subdued but measurable prosocial effect. In a clinical study on its effects on memory “initial word acquisition performance on PRL-8-53 was only 107.46% of baseline, subjects recalled words at 132.5-142.7% of the baseline rate 24 hours after testing, and at 145.2-146.2% after a week. Stronger effects were noted in the bottom 60% of subjects (who recalled 6 or fewer words on placebo at 24h), with 24 hour retention improved to 187.5-191% of baseline, and one week retention to 200-205%.” It is no doubt a potent potentiator for the creation and retention of memories. Doses range between 2 and 10 milligrams. 5 mg is the most common starting dose. PRL-8-53 is fairly nontoxic; it’s oral LD-50 is 860mg/kg in rats. A man weighing 90kgs (200lbs) would have to consume somewhere in the vicinity of 7740 mg to overdose (assuming the data from rodents does not perfectly translate to humans, and it is doubtful it does, the lesson to be taken is an unreasonable amount of the compound must be ingested before it is even slightly toxic). This is not an exhortation to take more than the recommended amount.

PRL is a cholinergic, a dopamine potentiator and serotonin inhibitor. Unlike MDMA, PRL is not an empathogen. It is not a stimulant either. Nor does it seem to be, like aniracetam, a general anxiolytic since some users list feelings of uneasiness after dosing (even though, somewhat paradoxically, in these same case studies participants have also noticed improved ease in communicating with others). Similar to some racetams, a slight dulling of emotional intensity has been reported. Subjects who have administered the drug to themselves notice “social barriers” evaporating. They do not feel talkative or compulsively gregarious or irrepressibly manic; they feel more at ease in interacting with other people. Severe social anxiety afflicts nearly 7% of American adults. How many more suffer from less crippling forms of the disorder is not known. At this time very little research has been done on pharmaceuticals that specifically target social anxiety (not tranquilizers or general anxiety medications). For this reason PRL and its as of yet undiscovered cousins should be of great interest to researchers looking for the next typhoon in the always engaging field of neuropsychopharmacology.

The richest and most exciting source of information about PRL is Reddit. One fellow “wrote a program based on an NP-Complete math problem that works, and successfully presented another piece of software to a couple of Venture Capitalists without the slightest bit of nervousness or hesitation.” Another “programmed a java assignment the entire day. 8 hours and then 5 hours into the morning.” He was less prone to indulging in distractions. Like many other psychotropics PRL is, anecdotally, a potentiator of vivid dreams. Whether or not it can foster lucid dreaming is not known.” It promotes concentration without stimulation. It is consistently described as a “clean” feeling, an energetic state free from euphoria or rage. One Redditor observed that the hyperfocus it promotes can be cumbersome to someone who wishes to let their mind wander. For someone who needs to complete a particular task within a particular amount of time this should not be an issue. He, one of the least effusive of the reviewers, writes, “this drug does NOT make you happier. It does NOT make you upset. It doesn’t really affect your everyday perception. All it seems to do is make memorization a bit easier, give you a little bit extra energy, and allow reading to be a lot easier because you retain the information that much faster.” It shines brightest in crowded room: “social benefits appear to be an increased recall of events, situations, and details. I’m still fishing around for the right words like I usually do, however. This in turn seems to subjectively boost sociability. I still had mild anxiety issues in certain situations. However, I was able to address a crowd of people on a moment’s notice and it felt completely natural.”

Before concluding it is worth mentioning PRL-8-53’s legendary cousin,  PRL-8-147, which is purported to grant godlike powers to whoever finds the golden chalice in which the only known sample resides dissolved in the finest mead of Middle Earth. Joking aside, Dr. Hansl left his research papers to his family. Right now little is verifiable about 147 and at this time there are no reputable suppliers. Do not despair, PRL-8-53 is quite promising.

Branconnier, Roland J. “The human behavioral pharmacology of the common core heptapeptides.” Pharmacology & therapeutics 14.2 (1981): 161-175.

 

Brewster, Marcus E., et al. “Brain-enhanced delivery of anti-dementia drugs.”Novel Approaches to the Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. Springer US, 1989. 173-183.

 

Esler, William K. “Physiological studies of the brain: implications for science teaching.” Journal of Research in Science Teaching 19.9 (1982): 795-803.

 

Hansl, Nikolaus R., and Beverley T. Mead. “PRL-8-53: Enhanced learning and subsequent retention in humans as a result of low oral doses of new psychotropic agent.” Psychopharmacology 56.3 (1978): 249-253.

 

Hull, Ronald W. “Metaperspectives for the Future: Technology.” (1980).

 

1 Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Walters EE. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun;62(6):617-27.

 

Valenta, Vladimír, et al. “Potential nootropic agents: Synthesis of a series of (2-oxo-1-pyrrolidinyl) acetic acid piperazides.” Collection of Czechoslovak Chemical Communications 55.6 (1990): 1613-1629.

 

Various. “PRL-8-53 Experiences • /r/Nootropics.” Reddit. N.p., Nov.-Dec. 2013. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.