Connect with us

Culture

Famous philosophers: Hegel is very much alive: Just ask Slavoj Žižek, Judith Butler or Byung-Chul Han | Culture

German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.Diego QUijano con fotografía de Getty Images

They all go out of style, but some of them make comebacks. The philosopher who placed the notion of relation and contradiction at the center of reality, who reflected about human beings and gave them a prominent place in history, who spoke of blood and liberty – for a long time, this thinker was considered a “dead dog.” Yet if we read Slavoj Žižek, Judith Butler and Byung-Chul Han, some of the 21st century’s most widely followed thinkers, one thing seems certain: Hegel’s legacy is very much alive.

In popular culture, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel represents the dark thinker whom Monty Python proclaimed as the best defense in their old gag about the soccer game between German philosophers and Greek philosophers. Now, more than 250 years after his birth, Hegel has inspired new books based on his philosophy and fresh print runs of his work. Even Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach recently quoted him to illustrate the moral duty of getting vaccinated against coronavirus: “Freedom is the recognition of necessity.”

Two of the last books by Slavoj Žižek are Hegel in a Wired Brain and Less Than Nothing: Hegel And The Shadow Of Dialectical Materialism. In a telephone conversation, Žižek reflected on that Hegelian view of history as a path of heartbreak. “Hegel does not talk to us about the future – that would be Karl Marx – but instead wants us to notice the processes of history and the act of constantly rewriting it,” he warns. In that sense, Hegel’s lesson for today’s world would be not to trust our own vision of the future. “We need to be more skeptical, instead of considering ourselves great makers of history.”

With post-humanism on the horizon, Žižek warns that the real game changer of our time is not surveillance capitalism (which focuses on personal data as a commodity to be used for profit) but potential new forms of domination through the brain-machine interface, whose goal is to make our thinking processes transparent. This new technological ability, still incipient but very real, “is horrible because it poses a threat to metaphors, poetry and the very idea of language. What’s at stake is our basic form of freedom which is human thought.”

Desire and power

In every one of her books, from the latest The Force of Nonviolence: An Ethico-Political Bind to her first, Gender Trouble, thinker Judith Butler uses Hegelian concepts such as the need for recognition, mediation or the right to citizenship. Butler, who earned a PhD with a thesis on Hegel and the concept of desire, published an article in The Institute of Art and Ideas in 2019 titled “Hegel for our times,” underscoring the current relevance of the notion of interdependence, a very Hegelian concept. “It is in the course of encountering another that I stand a chance to become self-conscious,” reads the article.

Meanwhile the thinker Byung-Chul Han, who studied philosophy at Freiburg University, seems to take a less transformative view of Hegel. In his book The Agony of Eros, he equated Hegel’s notion of absolute with love, and warned that in a narcissistic world where all social interaction is mediated by technology, we run the risk of entirely eradicating the notion of the Other. And one of his latest books is What is Power?, whose main thesis is that certain forms of power dialectics can take place from a place of concord, as is the case with surveillance capitalism.

Populism and conspiracy theories

Germán Cano, who teaches philosophy at Madrid’s Complutense University, believes there has been a return to Hegel’s work because of the need to think about the whole, to think about the structure of what’s real, to get some relevant perspective in these times of populism and conspiracy theories based on the logic of finding a scapegoat. To Cano, the problem is that we live in increasingly atomized societies without a robust public sphere, which makes it difficult for us to understand one another as a society.

Hegel was the first to uncover the workings of ideas posing as natural facts of life, notes Ricardo Espinoza Lolas, a professor of history of philosophy at the Catholic University of Valparaíso, in Chile. Hegel offers us tools to “perforate the given, mediate the immediate and build a new sociohistorical fabric” made of the feminist, anti-racist and anti-colonialist movements, among others.

Wearing Hegel glasses can help us see further, but they don’t work for everyone. In her work Let’s spit on Hegel, the Italian activist Carla Lonzi underscored that feminism was the first social movement to interrupt the masculine monologue that had been so carefully cultivated in Western philosophy. Yet the very Hegelian concept of transformation lies at the heart of feminism. “Through thinkers who are indebted to Hegel, such as Butler, we are introduced to the idea that each person is simultaneously singular and plural,” notes Francesca Recchia Luciani, who teaches history of philosophy at Bari University. Recchia says we are undergoing a profound change, a conflict between an old world and a new world, a dialectical duel that seeks to overcome the patriarchal paradigm that refuses to give space or a voice to a majority of people.

A revolutionary beer drinker

Hegel lived through the French Revolution and he grasped that the idea of conflict in history is painfully real. Up until 1800 Hegel did not want to be a philosopher but a revolutionary, and this crossroads represents a critical moment in his work, explains José María Ripalda, a professor of history of modern philosophy at Spain’s distance university UNED, in his work El joven Hegel. Ensayos y esbozos (or, Young Hegel. Essays and sketches).

Hegel was something of a poet, and he also liked beer and women. He had a child and paid for the latter’s upkeep throughout his life as a good scholar of ethics. Besides an icon of philosophy, Hegel was also a man, just like Beethoven exclaimed about Napoleon: “So he is no more than a common mortal!” His wife Marie von Tucher described him as one of those people who expect nothing and hope for nothing. But not everyone loved him: Schopenhauer said that Hegel’s work would remain as “a monument to German stupidity.”

In any event, Hegel is a light that refuses to go out. The historian Wilhelm Dilthey said Hegel was one of those men who have never been young and who still have a hidden fire in old age.

Source link

Culture

‘Conversations Outside The Cathedral’: The fight for abortion rights in Colombia | Culture

February 21 marked two years since the Colombian feminist movement achieved a historic victory: the decriminalization of abortion up to the 24th week of pregnancy, the longest period in Latin America.

A new book has just been published in Spanish, to tell the story of this triumph: Conversations Outside The Cathedral (Penguin Random House), playing on the title of Mario Vargas Llosa’s innovative novel, Conversation in The Cathedral (1969).

“One thing that happens to many of us feminists is that we work and fight… but we’re not putting together a log for history,” admits Ana Cristina González Vélez — a doctor and pioneer of the Just Cause movement — in her interview for the book. “I think men have been more aware of the value of narrating [such historical events] and that’s a shame,” she adds.

It’s time to put together the log, fight for a place in history and tell the feat better. As Argentine novelist Claudia Piñeiro describes it, this is a book about “the memory of the Colombian green tide.”

Conversations Outside The Cathedral is a book of interviews that journalist Laila Abu Shihab has put together, alongside González and her closest colleague, Cristina Villarreal. For years, Villarreal ran one of the few safe centers for women seeking abortions in Bogotá: Oriéntame (“guide me”).

“Cristina and I partnered together a lot… [she] from the perspective of [reproductive] services, [while I was] closely linked the feminist movement and advocacy. We were like two faces on one body,” González jokes, describing herself and Villareal.

The book includes conversations with activists, lawyers, legislators, reggaeton singers and famous actresses who were all fundamental to the victory. There are some men here and there, but the bulk of the interviewees are women. The diverse chorus describes the long road to victory: defeats, strategies, unexpected turns, debates, divisions, betrayals. But along the way, there was also an exceptional degree of solidarity… a feminist way of working that was “collective and went against egos and vanities,” the journalist writes.

Ana Cristina González, during a feminist demonstration, in Bogotá.
Ana Cristina González, during a feminist demonstration, in Bogotá.Victoria Holguín de Causa Justa

The first thing that Conversations Outside The Cathedral tries to do is give credit to those who rarely get any. For example, the book interviews university professor and sociologist Lucero Zamudio, who led the first ambitious study on abortion in Colombia in 1994, which revealed that induced abortion was the second-biggest cause of maternal mortality. “That study was never repeated — [there was never any document] of that magnitude and with that depth,” González affirms.

Another person included in the book is Iván Marulanda Gómez, a former senator who tried to get the right to abortion included in the Colombian Constitution of 1991. “Friends, it’s the right of Colombian women to give birth to children as a result of love and commitment… and it’s the right of Colombia’s children to be born surrounded by love and protection,” Marulanda told his colleagues in the Constituent Assembly. His motion was ultimately defeated: 25 votes in favor, 40 against, three abstentions. Congress has since voted on several initiatives to either decriminalize or legalize abortion. None have succeeded.

There are no protagonists in the fight for the right to abortion, but there are certainly key characters. There’s Mónica Roa, a lawyer who, in 2006, managed to get abortion decriminalized in three cases. Or Sandra Mazo, who’s committed to ending the guilt of abortion by leading the organization Catholics for the Right to Choose. For Cristina Villarreal, however, the key person was her father: Jorge Villarreal Mejía, a gynecologist who started a medical movement in favor of family planning. He founded Oriéntame in 1977. “I learned everything with my father,” his daughter explains. She’s of the leaders of the Just Cause movement, as well as the movement that preceded it: the Board for the Life and Health of Women.

Cristina Villareal.
Cristina Villareal.CORTESÍA

The book also deals with uncomfortable conversations. For instance, there were tensions that emerged among feminists after Roa’s victory in 2006, either because of what they perceived as her excessive media attention, or because of her strategy: rather than trying to get abortion decriminalized across the board, she sought exemptions from the law in three cases. “They criticized us and said that what we asked for was very little… only crumbs of justice,” Roa recalls.

The women on the Board for the Life and Health of Women aren’t afraid of engaging in increasingly complicated debates. They struggle, for example, with how to regulate the right to abortion when there’s a malformation of the fetus, because “any effort in this regard reinforces stereotypes and aggravates discrimination against people with disabilities,” González notes.

“There was a time when we decided that, every month, or every two months — I don’t remember very well — we would choose a topic for discussion, to ask each other uncomfortable questions,” Villareal says. “One of those issues was the [high level of abortions] in the case of female fetuses in India. At first, that generates a very strong reaction.”

Conversations Outside the Cathedral aims to document the epic battle, but also to warn the unsuspecting. For instance, two years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the ruling that had guaranteed women the right to abortion for decades. In Argentina, the new government of President Javier Milei is also promising to remove abortion rights. And, in Colombia, the so-called “pro-life” groups (González Vélez and Villarreal ask that they be identified more accurately as “anti-rights” groups) continue to seek their victory against the right to abortion by getting court rulings overturned. Within the feminist movement, victory cannot be completely achieved, because the fight is always shifting.

“I don’t know if one day — in a few decades, I hope — this conversation will seem very strange to [the next generations]. It will seem incomprehensible to them that abortion was a crime,” ponders one of the interviewees in the book. “I’m convinced that there’s no moment when the fight ends,” another woman notes. For now, the conversations continue.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

Source link

Continue Reading

Culture

‘Mrs. Doubtfire’: The highlights Of Robin Williams’ Role That defined His Artistic Greatness

The highlights Of Robin Williams’ Role That defined His Artistic Greatness

The Voice Of EU | One of the most versatile comedian and actor Robin Williams left an indelible mark on an entire generation throughout the 1990s, evoking both laughter and tears. His portrayal of a strict yet endearing housekeeper in the hit film “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993) resonated deeply with audiences worldwide, propelling it to resounding success across global boundaries.

Señora Doubtfire Robin Williams
Robin Williams in a scene from ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ (1993). Archive Photos (20th Century-Fox / Getty Images)

Williams played the role, despite the adversities and addictions that plagued his life at the time, by putting aside the devised script and becoming a master of improvisation during the filming of the movie, which brought in more than €400 million.

In the year of its release it was only outdone by Jurassic Park (€1 billion). This is what its director, also an avowed admirer of the American actor, explained on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Mrs. Doubtfire’s debut on the big screen: “It took me three months to rewrite the script. I sent it to Robin and he said he loved it.” After Williams’ suicide in 2014, in an interview for Business Insider magazine, Chris Columbus unveils details that were buried 30 years ago.

“Four and a half hours, maybe five,” is the time in which, according to the director, Robin Williams was able to play Mrs. Doubtfire, a characterization for which the film earned the Oscar for Best Makeup. The actor was not comfortable in portraying his role: a father who disguises himself as a housekeeper in order to spend more time with his children after a bitter divorce. For him, it presented a challenge. “We never could shoot two consecutive days of Robin as Mrs. Doubtfire. It was a punishing day for him, so always the next day, we would shoot him as Daniel (the father),” the director of the film reveals three decades after its release.

Comedy is acting out optimism.” — Robin Williams

In between the laughs and moments that are etched in the minds of many, Columbus describes the challenge of keeping actors such as Pierce Brosnan and Sally Field, who played leading roles in the film, from breaking away from the script of their characters while Williams was at his most unrestrainedly creative.

Indeed, according to the director, his boundless energy even created situations where the script supervisor could not keep up, resulting in unrepeatable and spontaneous takes. “None of us knew what he was going to say when he got going and so I wanted a camera on the other actors to get their reactions.” Most of the sequences in the film, and specifically all of those featuring Williams, were the result of an incredible amount of improvisation from the American comedian. “If it were today, we would never end. But back then, we were shooting film so once we were out of film in the camera, we would say to Robin, ‘We’re out of film.’ That happened on several occasions,” recalls Columbus.

“Hey boss, the way I like to work, if you’re up for it, is I’ll give you three or four scripted takes, and then let’s play.” This was the actor’s first warning to the director of Mrs. Doubtfire. Robin Williams was a significant figure in Chris Columbus’ life, and he still is to this day. Not only because he was responsible for his move to San Francisco, the actor didn’t want to shoot anywhere else, but due to his ability to make people laugh and cry at the same time. “Williams wanted the film to be shot there because he was living in San Francisco with his wife, Marsha, and their children. Thanks to him I fell in love with the city that has become my home,” he explains.

“You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.” — Robin Williams

The director also reminisced about some memorable scenes that contributed to the film’s status as a cinematic masterpiece, as perceived by many. However, what stood out the most was his innate ability to improvise: “The entire restaurant sequence was remarkable. When Robin, portraying Mrs. Doubtfire, accidentally loses his teeth in his drink, you can see the joy on Robin’s face; he’s almost smirking to himself for coming up with that.” Following the success of the Mrs. Doubtfire premiere, the production team is currently exploring ways to honor Williams and his portrayal in the film, although no definitive plans have been made yet. “There are approximately 972 boxes of footage stored in a warehouse somewhere in California. There’s something truly special and enchanting about his performances, and I believe it would be exciting to delve deeper into it.”

Despite initial reservations about creating a sequel, the notion of a new spin-off gained traction shortly before the actor’s tragic passing on August 11, 2014, at his residence in Paradise Bay, California. “Robin’s only concern was: ‘Boss, do I have to spend as much time in the suit this time around?’ The physical toll of portraying Doubtfire was immense for Robin; it felt like running a marathon every day,” the director recounts. Following a brief meeting at the actor’s home, and a simple handshake, Chris Columbus began outlining the script mere days before the unfortunate event. “During the rewrite, we contemplated reducing the role of Doubtfire. However, Robin’s untimely demise extinguished any hopes of a sequel,” he laments. Although not spearheaded by its creator, Mrs. Doubtfire has found new life as a stage musical. “What set him apart as a performer is that there was no one like Robin Williams before him, and there will never be anyone like him again. He was truly one-of-a-kind,” reflects the actor’s superior.

Mrs. DoubtfireRobin Williams and Matthew Lawrence in a scene from ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ (1993).

In addition to the director, another Mrs. Doubtfire star who later spoke of Robin Williams’ brilliance was Matthew Lawrence, who played Daniel’s son. Lawrence was just a teenager in the film, which also gave a debut to his co-star Mara Wilson, the unforgettable Matilda. One day Lawrence went to Robin’s dressing room and did not expect what he was told: “‘Stay away from drugs, particularly cocaine.’ He was being serious and told me: ‘You know when you come to my trailer and you see me like that?’ He’s like, ‘That’s the reason why. And now I’m fighting for the rest of my life because I spent 10 years doing something very stupid every day. Do not do it.’ I stayed away from it because of him”, Lawrence recalled in an interview with People magazine in March 2022.

The lesser-known chapter of Williams’ life, while unrelated to his demise, shed light on the inner struggles of a comedian committed to bringing joy to others yet grappling with profound personal sorrow. “As charismatic as he appeared on screen, I’d often visit him in his trailer for chats, he was tormented. It was truly agonizing for him. He didn’t conceal it. He confided in me about his battles with addiction,” the actor concluded.


Continue Reading

Culture

‘The Bill Gates Problem’ – The Case Against World’s Richest Man

The Case Against World’s Richest Man

When Clinton assumed the presidency of the United States, there was eager anticipation from the Chinese, not for Clinton himself, but for Bill Gates. This was during the late 1990s, a period when the internet was still in its nascent stages, and the digital boom of the early 2000s had not yet reached its peak. The enigmatic persona that captivated the attention of the burgeoning Asian powerhouse is now portrayed in “The Bill Gates Problem” as a “domineering, brusque figure” whose demeanor is likened to “a cauldron of passions that freely erupts.” According to a former employee cited in the book, Gates was perceived as “a complete and utter jerk to people 70% of the time,” while the remaining 30% saw him as a “harmless, enjoyable, exceptionally intelligent nerd.”

The 1990s were also the decade of the conflict between Microsoft and the now defunct Netscape browser, which challenged what was already being openly described as the former’s monopolistic practices. Gates was investigated and accused in Congress for such practices; he ultimately won the battle, but the case harmed his reputation, and in 2000 he resigned as CEO of his company. From there he undertook an expansion of the foundation that he had established with his wife and to which he has dedicated his main efforts in the last two decades. In 2006, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation received the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation.

With a personal fortune of $100 billion and tens of billions more in his private foundation, Gates has been one of the richest men in the world for decades, and the foundation has been the most generous organization of its kind, specializing above all in health aid, education and child nutrition, with a large presence in Africa and India among other regions of what was formerly known as the Third World. Tim Schwab, a contributor to the weekly left-wing newspaper The Nation, undertook a detailed investigation to denounce something that in truth was already known: that American foundations are largely a way for billionaires to avoid taxes.

To prove this, he thoroughly looked into the accounts and procedures of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the failures and occasional successes of its philanthropic policies, and came to the conclusion that behind this facade of help to the needy hides an operation of power. He is ruthless in his criticism, although accurate in his analysis of the growing inequality in the world. Absorbed by the revolutionary rhetoric, he laments that the Gates Foundation has remained “deadly silent” regarding movements such as Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter, which demand social change in the face of the “excess wealth and ‘white savior’ mentality that drives Bill Gates’ philanthropic work.” He does attribute some good intentions, but his criticism is merciless, sometimes even coarse, while the absence of solutions for the problems he denounces — other than the calls for do-goodism — is frustrating.

His abilities as an investigative journalist are thus overshadowed by a somewhat naive militancy against the creative capitalism that Gates promotes and an evident intention to discredit not only his work but, above all, him. The demands he makes for transparency and the accusations of obscurity are dulled by the author himself in the pages he dedicates to Gates’ relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the famous corruptor of minors at the service of the international jet set. Gates has explained his meetings and interviews with him on countless occasions, and in no case has any type of relationship, other than their commercial relations or some confusing efforts to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, been proved. Still, Schwab raises, with no evidence whatsoever, the possibility that their relationship “could have had something to do with Epstein’s principal activities in life: sexual gratification and the exercise of power.” The book is full of this kind of opinions and speculations, to the detriment of a more serious analysis of Gates’ mistakes in the management of his foundation, the problems of shielding the intellectual property of vaccines in the hands of the pharmaceutical industries and, ultimately, the objective power that big technology companies have in global society.

He signed a collaboration agreement with the RAE to improve Microsoft’s grammar checker and was interested in the substantial unity of the Spanish language in all the countries where almost 600 million people speak it. That man was very far from the sexist, arrogant, miserable predator that Schwab portrays. Nor did we deduce — and this can be applied to the personal adventure of Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Zuckerberg, Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos — that his life’s goal was world domination, as suggested by this book. If they have achieved it, or may achieve it, it is due to the dynamics of digital civilization and the objective difficulties in governing it. The deregulation of financial capitalism, which has increased inequality among humankind, is due to the incompetence of obsolete political institutions and to leaders who care more about their own fates than those of their people. The criticism against “lame and wasteful government bureaucracies” might be part of the propaganda promoted by the world’s wealthy, but lately we have also heard it from small-scale farmers across Europe.

In conclusion, we found the book to be more entertaining than interesting. It provides a lot of information — we’re not sure if it’s entirely verified — and plenty of cheap ideology. Above all, one can see the personal crusade of the author, determined to prove that Bill Gates is a problem for democracy and that millionaire philanthropists are a bunch of swindlers. The world needs their money; maybe managed by party bureaucracies, that much is not clear. Bill Gates’ money, that is, but not Bill Gates himself.


Continue Reading

Trending

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!