Jordan Peterson and the two camps of articulators (left and right). Why it is important to take a stand against Postmodernism

Jordan Peterson and the two camps of articulators (left and right). Why it is important to take a stand against Postmodernism

According with Jordan Peterson, a Canadian clinical psychologist, professor and author of 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos, if we want more security and less tyranny in our society we should ask ourselves the question of what is our moral duty to secure that. Unless otherwise stated, all the ideas of this posting belong to Professor Peterson, being taken from one of his YouTube lectures.

As shown by Peterson, human society has its own set of values, but each of which are valid in determined circumstances. Human society also has opposing camps of articulators arguing for predetermined subsets of values, and because of this, it is necessary that there is a dialogue between them. Society’s target is always moving because time does not stand still. This means that the target is always moving. In other words, the problems keep changing, which is also another reason why the dialogue between the opposing camps of articulators, is essential.

The two camps of articulators that exist today are usually labelled the left and the right. To Peterson, the problem that stands on the way of communication between opposing camps of articulators – or the left and the right – is that people perceive things differently due to proclivity and home and education circumstances. The left believes that in the idea that you have a moral imperative to be a radical activist. The right believes in the idea of a moral imperative to be useful.  They are two different things.

If you are a drop out, you are probably a looser. The probability is that you are useless, lazy, arrogant and resentful. There are losers who think they are saints and saints who think they are losers. If you are a looser who think you are a saint, then you will cause an awful lot of trouble to society. Many people from the 60s generation like to imagine themselves as the admirable rebel. However, lurking under the revolutionary façade is an inability to face responsibility. Baseline predictions and actuarial tables show this. The fact is that the admirable rebels of the 60s generation have been a pernicious influence on the university, especially the humanities, whose influence have been deteriorating since then.

A functional society has more security and less tyranny. Human societies have dominance hierarchies and many types of animals also have dominance hierarchies, which are behaviours selected for adding survival. Dominance hierarchies in human societies have been under attack accused of being tyrannies. However, there is a difference between the dominance hierarchies in human and other animals in the fact that the dominance hierarchies in humans are based on competence. Dominance hierarchies based on competence are not the same as hierarchies based on arbitrary power, such as the kind of power based purely on economic terms, which is actually a tyranny.  The more functional the society, the more its power hierarchy is based on competence in relation to what society deems as actually valuable. It is difficult to meet those criteria perfectly but it needs to be a process in that direction. The number one predictor of success in a society is intelligence. Shouldn’t it be right that smart people occupy more positions of complexity in a society?  Good hierarchies provide security but a degenerated hierarchy is a tyranny.  If we want more security and less tyranny, the question we all should ask is what is our moral duty?

Whether this is good or bad depends on the way the individual is. If you self-discipline yourself, aim high and achieve the high standards, then it is likely that you will feel comfortable with such high standards. If you have something that stand on the way of your progress, you will perceive a tyrannical element in high standards, and see them as unfair. People who think that way tend to have the ‘adversarial personality’.

The existence of two or more camps of articulators is not the biggest problem of society. The biggest problem of society is the radical elements that exist in them. An example is the ideologues of egalitarianism and equity on the left and the right, who are incapable of realizing that there are differences in rank between people and that this is not such a terrible thing.

Non ideologues also have a problem, when they stay away from the debates that take place in the public sphere, especially when things go well for them and there is no discomfort in their professional lives. The discomfort of Jordan Peterson started in 2017 when he took a stand against Bill C-16 in Canada, which, if passed (and it has passed) will put people under the threat of legal punishment if they refuse to use certain words, namely new pronouns created to accommodate LGBTs. became the scourge of the radical left for two things. Peterson himself stated that he was not against using a gender-neutral pronoun if he believes that a request to do so has merit, but that he was against a law compelling people to do so, for it would trample the more important right of fee speech.

Although Peterson became the scourge of the radical left by his opposition to  Bill C-16 in Canada, he also became endeared by the students of moderate political views in Canada, United States and all the English speaking countries. He began to be invited to give talks at various universities in Canada and elsewhere.

In many occasions, Jordan presence on campus attracted protests from students who chanted abused at him. On Friday 16 March 2018 Jordan went to McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario (Canada), invited buy a group of students, where he was going to participate in a debate of free speech and political correctness alongside with three professors from the same university. However, the three participants backed out of the arrangement due to the students’ opposition. Peterson attended  to the hall anyway and started to talk, but no one could hear him because of the noise the protesters were making, chanting, clanging cowbells and blowing air horns. Eventually, Peterson retreated outside the hall, where he continued speaking while standing on a bench, and the event gained space in the national and international media.

According to Jordan, in 2017 his own job at the University of Toronto was threatened, causing great anxiety to him and his family. Last July, he announced his plans to launch a website that would help students and parents identify and avoid ‘corrupt’ courses with ‘postmodern content’. Within five years, he hoped, this would starve ‘postmodern neo-Marxist cult classes’ into oblivion. Jordan’s lectures and debates with other people are produced without special lighting and makeup. The estimative is that some 40 million people have listened to them.

All the hatred towards Jordan have caused a growth in the respect for his intellectual prowess.  The hate and the love for him have helped to put his 2018 book 12 Rules for Life in the bestseller list.  The economist Tyler Cowen, of George Mason University, who placed Jordan among the top five public intellectuals of the Western world (Tyler Cowen January 23, 2018 at 12:45 am in Current Affairs Education Philosophy). His opinion was echoed by David Brooks, of The New York Times, who referred to Peterson as  “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now.” The American essayist and critic Camille Paglia anointed him “the most important and influential Canadian thinker since Marshall McLuhan”. The British journalist Melanie Phillips wrote that Jordan is “a kind of secular prophet … in an era of lobotomised conformism”.

As Peterson has articulated many times in his lectures, Postmodernism has a pernicious influence in society. In my view, Postmodernism has been allowed to encroach the universities of the West because the academics who enjoy the comfort of secure academic posts do not feel compelled to take a stand against it. I also believe that things are even worse in the fringes of the West, such as in my native Brazil. In my book of essays called O homem razoável (The Reasonable Man; 2016) one of the essays deals specifically with Postmodernism. This book is available on paper on Amazon.com (USA) and as a Kindle edition in other Amazon sites.  On my next post I will publish a transcription I made of Peterson’s talk on Postmodernism

 

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How to find meaning

How to find meaning

Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

Review of the book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B. Peterson. Allen Lane, UK, 2018. 409 pp. ISBN 978-0-241-45163-5.

I only learned about Jordan B. Peterson, the  Canadian psychologist whose appearances in YouTube are watched by thousands around the world,  at the beginning of June this year,  when a friend mentioned a debate on political correctness in which Jordan participated with Stephen Fry, the British writer and comedian. I learnt much from watching this debate on YouTube, including why Peterson is described by journalists as the kind of person that people either love or hate.  Although from the start I placed myself among the former, I was still reluctant to buy his book 12 Rules for Life simply because the title reminded me of those books with the expression ‘for dummies’ in the title. After watching a discussion about postmodernism that he had with the American author and discerning social critic, Camille Paglia published in October last year, I changed my mind.

This is Jordan’s 2nd book, the result of an epiphany he had during a brain storming meeting with a friend and business associate at the end of 2016, when he imagined that the LED-equipped pen torch his friend gave him as a ‘pen of light’ with which he would be able “to write illuminated words in the darkness”.

Considering that 12 Rules for Life, a book of 409 pages was published in the first part of 2018, this is a remarkable short time, even for a genius. The  explanation is in Jordan’s first book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, published  in 1999, “a very dense book” in Peterson’s own words, which took him 10 years to write, and whose ideas were further expounded in 12 Rules. The 12 rules of life are:

Rule 1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back.

Rule 2. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.

Rule 3. Make friends with the people who want the best for you.

Rule 4. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.

Rule 5. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.

Rule 6. Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.

Rule 7. Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient).

Rule 8. Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie.

Rule 9. Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.

Rule 10. Be precise in your speech.

Rule 11. Don’t bother children when they are skateboarding.

Rule 12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.

In explaining Rule 1, “Stand up straight with your shoulders back”, the author shows that this is a trait that evolved, associated with status and social position not only in man but in other animals such as lobsters. The whole chapter is a biology lesson about the intraspecific hierarchies of the animal kingdom, which result from the competition for limited resources. There are specific body chemicals associated with the pecking order of chickens and the way songbirds establish dominance. Although the biological evidence points to their existence of hierarchies in humans, to admit this has become politically incorrect. Perhaps the notion of human hierarchy has become a ‘monster’ for individuals with a determined personality, which is probably why Peterson likes to repeat that monsters do exist, after all. But it makes sense that people stand straight when they are well, and became curved when they are not, but the message is that one can pick oneself up and stand straight again. “Stand up straight with your shoulders back” is a metaphor for accepting life’s many responsibilities, even the most terrible and difficult. The acceptance of responsibility is tantamount to an intent of finding meaning in life and to respect oneself.  The brutal distribution of resources in today’s word, where one percent of the population have as much as the bottom 50 percent, is what makes it difficult to accept responsibility:

The majority of scientific papers are published by a very small group of scientists. A tiny proportion of musicians produces almost all the recorded commercial music. Just a handful of authors sell all the books. A million and a half separately titled books (!) sell each year in the US, However, only five hundred of these sell more than a hundred thousand copies. Similarly, just four classical composers (Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Tchaikovsky) wrote almost all the music played by modern orchestras. Bach, for his part, composed so prolifically that it would take decades of work merely to hand-copy his scores, yet only a small fraction of this prodigious output is commonly performed. The same thing applies to the output of the other three members of this group of hyper-dominant composers: only a small fraction of their work is still widely played. Thus, a small fraction of the music composed by a small fraction of  all the classical composers who have ever composed makes up almost all the classical music that the world knows and loves.

The situation above is described by an L-shaped graph known as Price’s law, where the vertical axis depicts the number of people and the horizontal axis depicts productivity or resources. It is also known as the Matthew Principle, due to a New Testament quotation (Matthew 25:29), where Christ said “to those who have everything, more will be given; to those who have nothing; everything will be taken.”  This quotation comes from the Parable of the Talents, where Christ recognises that people are not equal in terms of initiative and diligence. The main point that Jordan is trying to make is that hierarchies are a part of life. Hierarchies evolved over long periods of time in the animal kingdom, not just in man.  From a Darwinian perspective, what matters is permanence. Social hierarchy is not a new concept; it has been around for some half a billion years, and it is real and permanent. Nature is what ‘selects’, and the longer something has been selected the more permanent it is. Nature is not as harmonious, balanced and perfect as imagined by the romantic minds. There is a lot more to this chapter, such as that every individual has within him- or herself an idea of  his or her position in society. Low and high status are real. There is anxiety in both realities. Undoubtedly this is unpalatable to many, but is the reality. To act responsibly in the world today requires accepting reality and working with it. Finally, there are self-defeating ways and intelligent ways to live responsibly: “Look for your inspiration to the victorious lobster, with its 350 million years of practical wisdom. Stand up straight, with your shoulders back.”

I was particularly drawn to Rule 9: “Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t”. In this rule Peterson explains the science of human interactions, emphasising attention and conversation. Many of the ideas that Peterson presents regarding this rule come from his practice as a clinical psychologist, which has given him a large sample of modern day isolation and its secondary side effects. He writes:

The people I listen to need to talk, because that’s how people think. People need to think. Otherwise they wander blindly into pits When people think, they simulate the world, and plan how to act in it. If they do a good job of simulating, they can figure out what stupid things  they shouldn’t do. Then they can not do them. Then they don’t have to suffer the consequences. That’s the purpose of thinking. But we can’t do it alone. We simulate the world, and plan our actions in it. Only human beings do this. That’s how brilliant we are. We make little avatars of ourselves. We place those avatars in fictional worlds. Then we watch what happens. If our avatar thrives, then we act like he does, in the real world. Then we thrive (we hope). If our avatar fails, we don’t go there, if we have any sense. We let him die in the fictional world, so that we don’t have to really die in the present.

Conversation is a key thing in human life and yet we don’t know how to do it properly; it is often hindered by not listening properly or by not being completely truthful. Peterson calls ‘jockeying for position’ the situation in a conversation where people think more on the reply they want to make than in what is being said. Good conversation, of the kind people exchange views with one another, is becoming rare.  The alternative to the standard conversation involving two or more interlocutors is thinking. We can create a conversation in our minds by reflecting deeply and enacting our viewpoint and that of another person. Self-criticism often passes for this type of thinking, but is not a reflection with an internal dialogue. As Peterson shows, conversation is a great opportunity to organize thoughts effectively and to clean up our minds. Putting it in another way, conversation is the key to good mental health.

Simplicity is one characteristic of all 12 rules for life prescribed by Peterson. This simplicity comes from the vision of the tip of an iceberg of meaning. However, a lot of effort is required to grasp in full the iceberg of meaning. There is a lot of meaning behind each of these 12 rules of life. All 12 rules rest either on scientific findings or on the wisdom of ancient narratives and their archetypes, or on both things.  Meaning, according to Jordan, is the most important thing anyone could wish for in life for it allows us to find equilibrium between order and chaos. A necessary condition for meaning is truth. Many people are incapable of accepting  the world as it is, and prefer instead to hang on to their idea of how the world should be. These are the kind of people who hate Jordan and try to defame his character.

The book 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson is at the top of the league of self-help books and the reason for that is the clarity with which the author depicts life’s problems and the ways people deal with them, which, in turn, is due to the fact that Jordan is a public intellectual and a world class research psychologist, as well as an individual who has experienced a fair share of problems in his own life. Peterson’s book offers the intelligent ways to deal with the problems of modern life, from  social isolation and alcohol or substance abuse, to nihilism and the inability to  accept the truth about the world; we can include in this list a range of mind disorders from anxiety to depression. Meaning, not happiness, is the objective of these 12 rules. Happiness is a term that derives from ‘happy’ but  ‘happy’ is  not synonymous with ‘good’. Good includes a range of things like self-respect and the Golden Rule regarding treating others; that which allow us to live our lives with integrity and with hope for further improvement is ‘good’ while the opposite of that is ‘hell’.  Only through meaning we can evade hell and have the necessary courage to face the tragedies of life.

                                                                                                                                               

Joaquina Pires-O’Brien is a Brazilian translator, essayist and former research  botanist, living in England. Her book of essays O homem razoável (The Reasonable Man) was published simultaneously in Portuguese and Spanish in 2016, and is available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions. In 2010 she founded PortVitoria, a digital magazine for Iberians worldwide, in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

Revisitando 1968

Editorial. Revisitando 1968

Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

Este año marca el 50 aniversario de la revolución estudiantil de 1968, lo que ofrece una oportunidad de reflexionar sobre el evento en sí y la percepción del público desde entonces. En 1969, apenas un año después del evento, Raymond Aron (1905-1983) publicó el libro La Revolution Introuvable: Réflexions sur les événements de mai, o The Elusive Revolution: Anatomy of a Student Revolt, en la traducción al inglés. Considerado el testigo más equilibrado de los acontecimientos en París, Aron describió a 1968 como un ‘psicodrama’, más para una comedia revolucionaria que para una verdadera revolución. Aron era el tipo de intelectual que siempre escogió la verdad, cualquiera que fuera el costo. Ser un feroz crítico del marxismo, en una época en que casi todo el mundo estaba envuelto con la izquierda, significó no sólo renunciar a la oportunidad de hacerse popular, sino también exponerse al menosprecio de otros pensadores. Pero, a pesar de todos los intentos de denigrar su imagen, Aron mantuvo su propio suelo. Aron finalmente alcanzó el reconocimiento merecido al final de su vida, especialmente después de la publicación de sus memorias, un mes antes de su muerte, el 17 de octubre de 1983.

Esta edición de PortVitoria reexamina las ideas en torno a las revueltas de los estudiantes de 1968. El principal artículo es ‘París, mayo de 1968: la revolución que nunca existió’, de Peter Steinfels, publicado por primera vez en The International Herald Tribune el 11 de de mayo de 2008, con motivo de los 40 años de 1968, y publicado aquí en español y portugués. Es seguido por el ensayo de Fernando Genovés ‘Raymond Aron y Jean-Paul Sartre: hombres de letras versus intelectuales’, que destaca los paralelos en las vidas de Aron y Sartre, incluido el evento en París, en el 26 de junio de 1979, cuando estas dos figuras imponentes se encontraron de nuevo por última vez. Un obituario de André Glucksmann, uno de los líderes de las revueltas estudiantiles de 1968 en París y que más tarde surgió como uno de los Nuevos Filósofos de Francia es nuestro tercer artículo. Lo mismo fue publicado en la revista semanal estadounidense The New Yorker, el 11 de noviembre de 2015, y es reproducido aquí en portugués. El cuarto artículo es mi proprio ensayo ‘1968 en un casquillo de nuez’, un breve relato de las revueltas de los estudiantes y sus consecuencias.

Un doble revisión de The Once and Future Liberal y The Shipwrecked Mind (La mente naufragada) de Mark Lilla, por James Meek, publicado por primera vez en 2017 en el London Review of Books, se ofrece aquí en español y portugués. Los libros fueron reseñados en varias revistas y periódicos españoles y brasileños, pero la reseña de Meek captura con aprumo sustancia e intención, permitiendo un vislumbre clara de la mente de ese escritor penetrante.

Mucha agua ha pasado bajo el puente desde 1968 y la narración de los acontecimientos que lo rodean también ha cambiado. Cincuenta años después, un número creciente de críticos parece concordar que fue un utopismo socialista que alcanzó el status de un culto. Aún más relevante que la etiqueta que debía aplicarse a 1968, es el hecho de que inculcó muchas ideas inconclusas en las mentes jóvenes y en la población. Esto tuvo muchas consecuencias imprevistas, tales como la sofocación del debate en la esfera pública, el populismo político, el multiculturalismo, el tribalismo y el desaliento de la enseñanza superior. América Latina tuvo todo eso más la fragmentación social causada por la diseminación del marxismo e ideologías semejantes.

Julio de 2018

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Jaron Lanier and the Bummer machine of making heads

Jaron Lanier and the Bummer machine of making heads

An American information technologist named Jaron Lanier is also the author of several books of critique of the Digital Age, such as You are not a Gadget: The Manifesto (2010), Who Owns the Future? (2013), Dawn of the New Everything: A Journey Through Virtual Reality (2017). Lanier has just published his fourth book entitled Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (2018), in which he denounces Silicon Valley in general, and FaceBook , in particular, as real head-turning machines.

Lanier called the ‘Bummer’ head-turning machine, an acronym in the phrase “Behavior of Others, Modified and Transformed into a Empire for Rent” (Behavior of Others, Modified, and Made into an Empire for Rent).

The following is excerpted from the article by Danny Fortson published in The Sunday Times Magazine, 19.05.2018, about Lanier Ten’s new book Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now:

At the heart of his concern is the coupling of the smartphone, an always-on supercomputer, and tracking device, and advertising, which has been utterly transformed from a periodic annoyance that would materialise in defined places – during your favourite television show, on a billboard, in a magazine – to something else entirely. “Everyone who is in social media is getting individualised, continuously adjusted stimuli, without a break, so long as they use their smartphones,” he writes. “What might once have been called advertising must now be understood as continuous behaviour modification on a titanic scale.”

Even more alarming: The Bummer machine is getting stronger every day because what algorithms need more than anything is data to crunch and behaviours to analyse. … The more raw material the algorithms have to work with, the more effective they become. Hence Lanier’s call for mass deletion: “The arc of history has reversed with the arrival of the Bummer machine,” he says. “Quitting is the only way, for now, to learn what can replace our grand mistake.”

The argument goes like this: algorithms are optimised to create engagement and they work extremely well. The average millenial checks his phone 150 times a day. It is typically the first thing they do when they get up and the last thing before they go to sleep. More than 2 bn people are in FaceBook, roughly the same number of followers of Christianity.

The result is that society has “darkened a few shades”, Lanier argues. “If you don’t see the dark ads, the ambient whispers, the cold-hearted memes that someone else sees, that person will seem crazy to you. And that is our new Bummer world . We seem crazy to each other because Baummer is robbing us of our theories of one another’s minds.”

Our solution is to be like a cat, that is, be impervious to instruction or control.

Here are Lanier’s 10 reasons why people should delete their social media accounts:

  1. You are loosing your free will;
  2. Quitting social media is the most finely targetted way to resist the insanity of our times;
  3. Social media is turning you into an asshole;
  4. Social media is undermining truth;
  5. Social media is making what you say meaningless;
  6. Social media is desroying your capacity for empathy;
  7. Social media is making you unhappy;
  8. Social media doesn’t wabt you to have economic dignity;
  9. Social media is making politics impossible;
  10. Social media hates your soul;

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The above was taken from Danny Fortson’s interview of Jaron Lanier published in The Sunday Times Magazine, 19.05.2018, about Lanier’s latest book Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now

 

What is Humanism?

“A rationalistic system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.” (Oxford English Dictionary)
“The rejection of religion in favour of the advancement of humanity by its own efforts.” (Collins Concise Dictionary)
“…a non-religious philosophy, based on liberal human values.” (Little Oxford Dictionary)
“…seeking, without religion, the best in, and for human beings.” (Chambers Pocket Dictionary)
“…an appeal to reason in contrast to revelation or religious authority as a means of finding out about the natural world and destiny of man, and also giving a grounding for morality… Humanist ethics is also distinguished by placing the end of moral action in the welfare of humanity rather than in fulfilling the will of God.” (Oxford Companion to Philosophy)

 

Unlike religionists, Humanists have no faith. Having “faith” means having a strong belief in something without proof. Humanists are essentially sceptics. Where religious people might offer supernatural answers to some of the fundamental questions about life, the universe, and everything, we prefer to leave a question mark. Humanists are atheist (meaning “without god”), or agnostic (a term coined by the 19th century biologist, Thomas Henry Huxley, to mean “without knowledge”, since Huxley said one cannot prove or disprove the existence of God).
Humanists reject the notion of an afterlife; we think that this life is the only one we have, and we must make the most of it.
Humanists don’t have the equivalent of the Bible or the Qu’ran, or a book of rules to guide us through life, though we may refer to great works of history, philosophy and literature. You don’t actually need to have read the history of Humanist ideas to be a Humanist, but most, being inquisitive, thoughtful people, will investigate the ideas that interest us.
We can trace Humanist influences over 2,500 years to the Chinese sage Confucius and to the philosophers, scientists and poets of antiquity. One was the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who, starting from Aristotle’s principle that human happiness depends on good conduct, defined the good life as one of pleasure and friendship, absence of pain and peace of mind. His disciples included women and slaves, which was almost unheard of at that time. Epicurus said, “Of all the means by which wisdom ensures happiness throughout life, by far the most important is the possession of friendship.”
For centuries, it was unsafe to openly express unorthodox views about religion, but with the dawn of the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries, it gradually became possible to do so, with caution. Some described themselves as “rationalists”, “secularists” or “freethinkers”, terms that are still used by Humanists today.
Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution made a huge impact on our understanding of where we come from, has been a strong influence on Humanism. The scientist Marie Curie, the 18th century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, the authors Thomas Hardy and George Eliot, the first Prime Minister of Independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the American creator of the Star Trek TV series, Gene Roddenberry, are just a few of the influential people who’ve lived by Humanist principles.
Professor Richard Dawkins, a tireless advocate of secularism, said, “I arrived at my beliefs, as everybody should, by examining evidence.” Many Humanists have worked out their own beliefs and are delighted to find that others have reached similar conclusions. Because we are independent thinkers, Humanists differ about many things, but most of us agree about some basic principles. We believe that we should accept responsibility for our own behaviour and how it affects other people and the world we live in. Because we think that this is the only life we have, we believe it’s important to try to live full and happy lives, and to help others to do the same.
Humanists were involved with the establishment of the United Nations; we value human rights, freedom of communication, freedom from fear, want and suffering, and education free from bias and the influence of powerful religious or political organisations.
In his book Humanism, an introduction, Jim Herrick wrote, “Humanism is the most human philosophy of life. Its emphasis is on the human, the here-and-now, the humane. It is not a religion and has no formal creed, though humanists have beliefs. Humanists are atheists or agnostics and do not expect an afterlife. It is essential to humanism that it brings values and meaning into life.”
In 1996, the International Humanist & Ethical Union General Assembly adopted the following resolution. Any organisation wishing to become a member of IHEU is now obliged to signify its acceptance of this statement:
Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality

Note: From: http://suffolkhands.org.uk/humanism/, 27.09.2017

What defines a liberal mind?

What defines a liberal mind?
Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

I am proud to announce that PortVitoria is now entering its 8th year.
The main feature of this edition is an essay by the Spanish thinker Fernando R. Genovés explaining what defines the liberal mind. Genovés starts with the definition provided by Lord Acton (John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton; 1834-1902), who wrote that the liberal mind is the mind of the individual to whom the idea of liberty means something sacred, such as life and property. He then covers the meaning of liberty, which boils down to ‘not to be subjected to the domain of others’, and shows that the sacredness of life and property points to the necessity of individuals to learn how to control themselves and their lives. Liberty is thus the main object of the liberal mind, that is, the mind of persons who make their own decisions and accept responsibility for them. This is even more relevant in a time of post-truths, characterised by false news and by the tricks of constructionism. According with Genovés, liberals are neither conservatives nor radicals, and much less extremists, and, that they tend to not get cosy in political parties.
The other essays of this edition are ‘Decálogo do livre pensador’ (The ten commandments of the free-thinker) by Miguel Ángel Fresdenal, and ‘El passaporte’(The passport), which was taken from my new e-book El hombre rasonable y otros ensayos (The reasonable man and other essays; 2016). Fresdenal’s article touches precisely the problem of how to deal intelligently with the daily bombardment of ideas. My article provides a summary of the history of the passport and also shows how governments sometimes use the passport to further their illiberal agendas.

My e-book El hombre rasonable y otros ensayos (7 November 2016, KDP, Amazon) was reviewed by Norman Berdichevsky, an American writer with a special interest in the Hispanic and Portuguese cultures. This review is presented in both Portuguese and Spanish.
Another review offered in this edition is of Milan Kundera’s Slowness, which was published in French in 1995. The book was launched in Portuguese, in a pocket edition, in 2011, by Companhia das Letras.
During 2016 I managed to complete the migration of PortVitoria from an old-fashioned format to a more modern and flexible one based in WordPress. The new format is much more user friendly for it adjusts to all sorts of computer screens and hand held devices. Now you can bookmark PortVitoria in the home screen of your tablet or smartphone.

January 2017

Catalonia and the battle of ideas in the 21st century

Catalonia and the battle of ideas in the 21st century
Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

As a magazine about the Iberian culture PortVitoria could not ignore the recent referendum for independence held in Catalonia on Sunday, 1st October 2017, in which only 42% of the eligible voters participated, but resulted in a 90 per cent ‘yes’ vote. The national administration in Madrid has declared it unconstitutional and Spain’s Constitutional Court outlawed the referendum. Our editor and contributor Norman Berdichevsky, a cultural geographer with extensive knowledge and expertise on Iberian history, discusses various angles of the problem in his paper ‘The Catalonian referendum and what lay behind it’.
Could Catalonia’s referendum rekindle similar movements elsewhere which in turn could trigger a war? Lets examine the two opposing arguments. The ‘no’ argument states that most people are against violence and would prefer the stability of a normal life, even if backwards and faulty, to the instability of a war. The ‘yes’ argument states that Catalonia’s secessionist movement could rekindle similar movements around the world; fuelled by nationalism and ethnic claims, the same type that caused the wars of the 20th century.
In the 21st century, many State-nations face the problems of secessionism as well as subcultural affirmation. These two are connected by a crave for identity, which is the ‘dish of the day’ in the battle of ideas of the 21st century. One thinker who has contributed greatly to enlighten the battle of ideas of the 21st century is Thomas Sowell, an American economist and a Senior Fellow of The Hoover Institution at Stanford University, California. Among his many books, Sowell wrote on subcultural affirmation in his book Intellectuals and Society (2009), where he calls attention for the dishonesty of self-serving intellectuals behind the single issue activism of the 21st century. He writes: “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth, When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” We are pleased to offer the review of Sorwell’s book by David Gordon, a senior researcher at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
The compounding effects of the internet and the world’s super-population have brought the world’s ambiguities too close for comfort, making the battle of ideas in the 21st century much more volatile than of previous times. We in the 21st century should reflect upon the 20th century if we are to prevent the current battle of ideas from turning into war. No one depicted better the war of ideas of the 20th century and the mass movements it created than the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955). Ortega had a lifetime interest in capturing reality, and his books are still very relevant in the 21st century. His 1914 book Meditations on Quixote depicts the spirit of Spain itself in the character Sancho Panza. His 1929 book The Revolt of the Masses depicts changes as they were occurring all over Europe, describing the barbarism of lootings, the coerciveness of the mass movements and the homogenization of ideas. Ortega showed that the right to freedom comes with the responsibility to think for ourselves and that there is a relation between thinking and surviving: “We do not live to think, but, on the contrary, we think in order that we may succeed in surviving”. The two essays by Fernando Genovés presented in the current edition of PortVitoria cover the themes of Ortega the thinker and the battle of ideas. They were taken from Genovés 2016 book La riqueza de la libertad, and are offered in their English translation.
December 2017