Bert Olivier

Dan Brown’s Inferno: This might be fiction, but it’s a wake-up call

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” (Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321) With this epigraph from Dante, Dan Brown begins his recently published novel, Inferno, which deliberately takes its name from one of the three parts of Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century masterpiece, The Divine Comedy. It is…

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Climate change: Red alert in the Anthropocene

It is fitting that “Anthropocene”, the term coined just more than ten years ago by Paul Crutzen, a Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist, denotes the new ecological period, following the end of the Holocene, when humans became the principal force driving changes in the planetary system. I say this because the Holocene (“New Whole”), or stable…

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Capitalism, calling a spade a spade

Today I had the privilege of listening to two of the best conference keynote addresses I have heard at an international conference for a long time. They formed part of the same plenary session, here at Dublin City University in Ireland, where members are gathered for the annual conference of the International Association for Media…

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Cyber warfare

In The Information Bomb (Verso, 2005, p. 62), Paul Virilio says the following: “ ‘He who knows everything fears nothing,’ claimed Joseph Paul Goebbels not so long ago. From now on, with the putting into orbit of a new kind of panoptical control, he who sees everything – or almost everything – will have nothing…

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When fact imitates fiction: The Snowden case

In the history of (especially moral) philosophy, a recurrent theme involves the tension between the affirmation of so-called “free will” on the part of humans, and its denial, or what is called (a variety of) “determinism”. Without going into too much detail, it seems to me safe to say that most philosophers have favoured free…

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The cult of the toned female body

When Gilles Deleuze claimed that what Foucault had theorised as the panoptical, carceral society of disciplined, docile bodies — economically productive and politically impotent — had come to an end more or less with the Second World War, to be incrementally replaced by “societies of control”, he would probably not have been able to anticipate…

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The recurring historical struggle for freedom

Several things that I experienced recently contributed to a renewed reflection, on my part, on the meaning of freedom. Much has been written about it, and I, like everyone interested in the topic, have my favourite authors in this regard. Here, however, I want to take these experiences as my point of departure. The first…

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Modernism, postmodernism and poststructuralism, the difference

One clue to understanding the difference between modernism, postmodernism and poststructuralism lies in the ancient “quarrel” between Parmenides and Heraclitus. Parmenides argued that only being is, and becoming is not. Things of the world of perception, the world of the Many, of time and change, are subject to becoming, and therefore ARE not in the…

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Vuyo Mbuli treated everyone equally

When I saw the report in the Mail & Guardian about the death of Vuyo Mbuli, I could not believe my eyes — he still seemed so young, and life-loving. But then, death does not really discriminate between the young and the old. Still, it was saddening to learn that Vuyo, who has always come…

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South Africans present their papers at the Theoretical Psychology Conference in Chile

Here in Santiago, Chile, a number of South Africans have made thought-provoking contributions to the International Theoretical Psychology Conference at the Pontifical Catholic University. Almost without exception, the South Africans’ presentations were of the critical-psychological variety. Claire Haggard of UCT, for instance, explored the spatial situatedness of human bodies in phenomenological terms through the work…

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