Bert Olivier

The innovativeness of (some) art and its social implications

Lately one has read a lot about how Apple became the world’s most valuable company because of its CEO, Steve Jobs’s emphasis on innovative product development, rather than his own business leadership style. (According to those who knew him, including his biographer, he was an uncompromising bully.) It may come as a surprise to some,…

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An exceptional South African thinker

In 1995 one of the best loved, most down-to-earth and wisest of South Africa’s thinkers, the philosopher Marthinus Versfeld died at an advanced age. If anyone thought that philosophers must of necessity always have their “heads in the clouds” of abstract thought – like the ancient Greek philosopher Thales, who once fell into a well…

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The superficiality of our culture

This morning, re-reading Nietzsche’s early essay of genius about the strife between the ancient Greek gods, Dionysus and Apollo – The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music – I was struck anew by the utter superficiality of the (global) culture we live in. This superficiality was captured succinctly by Theodor Adorno in…

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Troubles with capitalism

Anyone who has been reading international news media such as TIME magazine recently will have noticed that people seem to be very worried about capitalism, judging by article headings such as “How to fix capitalism”, “Is capitalism broken?”, “Let’s fix this mess”, “Capitalism under fire” and “Keeping Wall Street honest”. In one of these –…

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“Philosopher” Stephen Hawking pronounces philosophy dead

At the recent philosophy conference at UCT in Cape Town, philosopher Callum Scott, from UNISA, presented an intriguing paper – “The death of philosophy: A response to Stephen Hawking” – on the 2010 book by physicists Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design (Bantam Books). In a nutshell, Scott offered a critique of Hawking…

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Our future with robots

The shape of our technological future is already coming into view, judging by Sherry Turkle’s recent book Alone Together. To be more accurate, if one takes the latest developments in the area of electronic communication, internet activity and robotics, together with changing attitudes on the part of especially (but not exclusively) young users into consideration,…

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The significance of recent protests for democracy

There is a certain historical justice about TIME magazine’s choice of its 2011 Person of the Year: The Protestor, with the sub-script, “From the Arab Spring to Athens, from Occupy Wall Street to Moscow”. What managing editor Richard Stengel writes on page 7 of this issue (December 26, 2011/January 2, 2012), resonates with Albert Camus’s…

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The ‘economistic worldview’ and the destruction of life

In his important recent book Treading Softly – Paths to Ecological Order (see my earlier post on it) — Thomas Princen distinguishes among four “worldviews” in relation to the environment, that is, four different ways of “perceiving and conceiving and making sense of one’s world” (pg 164) within what he terms “the current industrial, commercial…

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Fanon and resistance

Critical psychologist Desmond Painter, writing on the 50th commemoration of Frantz Fanon’s untimely death, says: “Fanon was interested in forging new categories of thought, new subjectivities and new modes of being and becoming. To this end, he challenged European thought [and the cultural and political category of ‘Europe’ as such] with a forceful refusal —…

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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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