Archive for June, 2012

Homes of Philosophers

Friday, June 22nd, 2012
Descartes
Kierkegaard
Schopenhauer
Kant
Foucault
Nietzsche
Russell
Spinoza
Heidegger
Marx
Hegel

The Past Was in Color

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Black and white photography, while capturing so much of history in a way never before possible, has had an odd effect on our collective memory.  Famous moments in history, from the Civil War to the Cold War, are preserved in our culture as black and white images.  It’s hard to imagine Abraham Lincoln in color thanks to those official black and while photographs.  And World War I?  Any idea what color those uniforms were?

Of course, we know that the past was in color, but since so much visual representation of the past two centuries is in black and white, it has a subtle effect on us.  A colorized photo of Lincoln doesn’t look right to us.  Since events prior to the invention of photography were commemorated in paintings, this isn’t the case for other time periods.  Napoleon is always surrounded by swaths of color.  Medieval Europe is awash in reds, golds, purples, and browns.

But color photography is in fact a much older technology than we may remember.  There were experimental color formats from the very beginning.  Every once in a while, we come across color photographs from the late 19th or early 20th century and they’re shocking.

In the early 20th century, before the revolution, photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii developed an experimental color slide technology and used it to document his homeland in over 10,000 photographs.  Thanks to him we have the only color image of Leo Tolstoy.

These photographs are just amazing.  They are images from the era of Anton Chekhov, in full, rich color.

The Library of Congress has super high res scans of thousands of his images available for free download here.  But be warned: you’ll need a fair amount of time and drive space because you’ll want to download them all.

Frank Hurley, who joined Ernest Shackleton on the voyage of the Endurance, brought color slide technology with him.  These were some of the first photos of this continent, certainly the first in color.  You can see the wide variety of blues, purples, and greens in the ice just the way Hurley saw them back in 1915.

You can see some of his photos here, courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales.

The latest color photographs we’ve come across are these Kodachromes from 1940-43.  They’re crystal clear images of the US at a time that has been highly-documented in black and white.

If you’re like us and can’t get enough of these things, one of our favorite blogs, How to be a Retronaut, often posts color photographs of the black-and-white era.  You can see many of them here.

(thanks to UPGista Craig Wichman for the link to the Kodachromes)

Facts about Schopenhauer

Friday, June 8th, 2012

We all love German philosopher and pessimist Arthur Schopenhauer, but how much do we really know him?

Here are some helpful facts about Schopenhauer and his life.

Arthur Schopenhauer was born in February 1788 and died in September 1860.

Schopenhauer had no real friends.  He never married.

Schopenhauer’s mother was an accomplished writer and ran her own glamorous salon.  She was friends with Goethe.  Schopenhauer had a hard time living under her shadow and didn’t get along well with the world of the salon with its vain writers and intellectuals.  As a result he had a strained relationship with his mother, fraught with professional jealousy.

His father was a Dutch businessman who committed suicide when Schopenhauer was 17.  His father’s travels brought Schopenhauer to England and France, where he learned the local languages.  Schopenhauer had fond memories of France.  He did not feel the same way about England.

Schopenhauer really hated Hegel.  He hated his work and he resented his popularity and he despised his followers. Schopenhauer scheduled the class he taught at a time that was simultaneous with Hegel’s lectures in order to pull followers to his side away from Hegel.  The result was that few students decided to show up to Schopenhauer’s class.

The first part of Schopenhauer’s greatest work, The World as Will and Representation, was completed before he turned 30.

Various stages of Schopenhauer.

Schopenhauer was unlucky in love.  In 1819, Schopenhauer fathered, with a servant, a daughter who died that year.  At age 33, he fell in love with nineteen-year old opera singer.  When he was 43, a 17-year old recorded rejecting him in her diary.

Schopenhauer lived alone with a succession of French poodles.  Like Kant, who he considered himself the true successor of (although Schopenhauer had a unique interpretation of Kant’s work), his life was defined by a strict routine.  He would read and study in the morning, play his flute, lunch at the same inn, take an afternoon walk, read the paper, and sometimes attend concerts in the evening. He would read inspirational texts such as the Upanishads before going to sleep.

Schopenhauer donated his estate to help disabled Prussian soldiers and the families of soldiers killed in the suppression of the 1848 revolution.  Guess he wasn’t a revolutionary.

Schopenhauer had a run-in with the law.  He was named as a defendant in a lawsuit by Caroline Marquet.  According to Schopenhauer’s testimony, Marquet deliberately annoyed him by raising her voice while standing right outside his door.  Marquet alleged that he assaulted and battered her after she refused to leave his doorway.  Marquet won the lawsuit, and Schopenhauer was forced to make payments to her until her death 20 years later.

(And for those of you who aren’t already Schopenhauer fans, here’s a brief rundown on his philosophy: Schopenhauer believed that intellect and consciousness exist as instruments to serve the will. Conflict between wills (and the inability to fulfill them) is the cause of constant strife and frustration. The world, therefore, is a world of unsatisfied wants, which leads to suffering.  Pleasure is simply the absence of pain; unable to endure, it brings only ennui.  The only possible escape is the renunciation of desire, a negation of the will.  Temporary relief can be found in art, especially through music since it expresses will directly.  Schopenhauer’s ethics are based on empathy, in which the moral will, feeling another’s hurt as its own, makes an effort to relieve the pain.  Schopenhauer’s emphasis on denial, or releasing the mind from the tyranny of the will, has its roots in Buddhism.  You could say that Schopenhauer was someone who was personally miserable who focused on creating a philosophy to bring consolation to others who are also miserable.  If you don’t love him now, then there’s no helping you.)

The Unemployed Philosophers Guild Schopenhauer Finger Puppet

It is the courage to make a clean breast of it in the face of every question that makes the philosopher. He must be like Sophocles’ Oedipus, who, seeking enlightenment concerning his terrible fate, pursues his indefatigable inquiry even though he divines that appalling horror awaits him in the answer. But most of us carry with us the Jocasta in our hearts, who begs Oedipus, for God’s sake, not to inquire further.
– Arthur Schopenhauer

Arbitrary Pie of the Day

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Coconut cream.