Bert Olivier

Quantum computing and the real: Ontological implications

In an engrossing (pun intended) article in the most recent TIME magazine (February 17), Lev Grossman wrote about the “Infinity Machine – Quantum Leap” (pp. 28-35). A revolutionary new kind of computer is introduced to those who are willing to expand their minds in an effort to understand it. Admittedly, this is a mainstream magazine,…

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Gavin Hood’s ‘Ender’s Game': Intelligence, ruthlessness and empathy

When intelligence, ruthlessness and empathy co-exist in the same person, one might expect the person concerned to perform certain actions, made possible by the first two attributes, which leave him or her guilt-stricken because of the last. Empathy is a stronger concept than sympathy; empathy allows one to feel what others feel, whether it is…

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Is state surveillance only about violating the right to privacy?

In a recent article (sent to me by an astute and observant friend) on “Totalitarian paranoia in the post-Orwellian Surveillance State”, the renowned “critical pedagogics” intellectual, Henry Giroux, dwells at length on the implications of state surveillance on the part of agencies such as the American NSA. Giroux provides a thorough analysis of the relation…

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Ranciére and ‘the police’

The more acquainted I get with the work of Jacques Ranciére, the more it strikes me that his uncompromisingly philosophical treatment of familiar phenomena is a way of doing what has been recognisable as philosophy’s archetypal function since the time of the ancient Greeks, namely to expose the familiar as covering up what is “truly”…

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Information overload and OCD

I guess I’m VERY lucky, having been earning a living for over 40 years doing one of the things I love: philosophy. Actually, it is not “one” thing in the sense of focusing on one “field” to the exclusion of others; rather, it is “one” thing because the activity of doing philosophy involves something distinctive,…

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The intergenerational injustice of climate change

Scientists are getting more radical about climate change and its consequences for our descendants. In a recent edition of the New York Times, Dr Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University draws attention to the fact that the time is past when scientists could, with a good conscience, refuse to go further than state their considered…

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The French philosopher and the American whistle-blower

Unless one acknowledges the complex nature and often unexpected connections among things, events and people, one might find it a smidgen astonishing that what the French poststructuralist philosopher, Jean-Francois Lyotard, wrote in his “report” on the state of knowledge in “advanced” societies, better known as The Postmodern Condition (1979; English translation: Manchester University Press, 1984),…

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Triumph of capitalism: The new world plague

Some time ago, while working on a bigger project concerning contemporary society, I took Slavoj Žižek as my point of departure to raise the question of the state of the “ethical” today. This morning, when I was looking at Jacques Derrida’s Specters of Marx (Routledge 1994) in the context of this project, I noticed a…

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‘The Road’ and the disappearance of nature

Reading a short article about the reasons for the meat and dairy industry being unsustainable, and watching David Attenborough’s documentary, Madagascar (with its visual feast of beautiful, but ecologically endangered creatures in Madagascar’s forests), from the corner of my eye, reminded me of Cormack McCarthy’s novel, The Road, made into a riveting film by John…

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Living in present-day South Africa

I don’t believe in generalisations when it comes to experience, except in the natural sciences. In fact, philosopher Hans Reichenbach, in The Rise of Scientific Philosophy, goes so far as to claim that “generalisation” is what is distinctive about science – in the language of the philosophy of science, it is science’s “demarcation criterion”. Because…

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