Bert Olivier

Alain Badiou, the “event”, and political subjectivity

Alain Badiou, whose work is, as far as I can tell, not widely known in the English-speaking world – where Peter Hallward has done a lot to compensate for this lack – is a contemporary thinker who has done much to refine the philosophical understanding of the human subject. As Hallward observes (in the Translator’s…

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A young philosopher of note

I have had the privilege of becoming acquainted with the work of a young Iranian-American philosopher, Farhang Erfani, along various avenues, and what a pleasure it has been. In addition to papers published by him in philosophical journals, he recently published a book, “Aesthetics of Autonomy – Ricoeur and Sartre on Emancipation, Authenticity, and Selfhood”…

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COP17: Are all the essential things on the agenda?

Reading the daily reports on what has been happening at COP17 in Durban leaves one with a mixture of disappointment and hope — disappointment in Northern, developed countries like the US and Canada, for not showing greater commitment to doing what is necessary to (attempt to) secure the world’s future by lessening greenhouse gas emissions…

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What is creativity?

How does it work? Is it mere imitation, or transformation, or could it be — under rare circumstances — “pure” creation, that is, out of thin air, as it were? This last possibility is captured in the Christian doctrine of “creatio ex nihilo”, which is attributed to God — the creation of the universe out…

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The fundamental contradiction in society — conventional vs critical thinking

I wonder if it has always been the case that there is a fundamental tension in society, or societies, between a kind of conventional, mainstream opinion (what the ancient Greek philosophers derogatorily called “doxa”), on the one hand, and a countervailing, critical thread of thinking, on the other. Moreover, in addition to this tension, there…

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The utter stupidity of ANC lawmakers

It is almost unbelievable that the political party which, 20 years ago, was still an organisation engaged in a “liberation struggle”, could suffer from amnesia to the extent that it has voted for the passing of the Protection of Information BIll (better known as the “secrecy bill”) in Parliament. Unbelievable, because during the struggle against…

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We’ll need two planets by 2030

At the beginning of his latest book, Treading Softly: Paths to Ecological Order, American ecological scholar Thomas Princen quotes from the Living Planet Report of 2008: “Our global [ecological] footprint now exceeds the world’s capacity to regenerate by about 30%. If our demands on the planet continue at the same rate, by the mid-2030s we…

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Douglas Kennedy — a novelist to read

Through my daughter, as much a bibliophile as her father, I recently discovered the novels of Douglas Kennedy. Her birthday gift to me was Leaving the World, a novel she described as “beautiful, but sad”, which propelled me and my partner into a very rewarding fictional journey of discovery. I haven’t come across references to…

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Rome, city of layered history

Walking through this city with its ancient, medieval, Renaissance, baroque and modern history all telescoped together, I reflected on Freud comparing it to the human psyche, what with all the layers of history, of time past, surrounding one wherever you turn. And if the remnants, ecclesiastic, artistic and architectural, which address one on virtually every…

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Rome, Caravaggio, St Matthew and money

Today I saw one of the most beautiful and profound paintings I have ever had the privilege to behold. It is Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s The Calling of St Matthew (1602), in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. Even if we had not travelled here to participate in one of the wonderfully…

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