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Bert Olivier

Posts published by “Bert Olivier”

As an undergraduate student, Bert Olivier discovered Philosophy more or less by accident, but has never regretted it. Because Bert knew very little, Philosophy turned out to be right up his alley, as it were, because of Socrates's teaching, that the only thing we know with certainty, is how little we know. Armed with this 'docta ignorantia', Bert set out to teach students the value of questioning, and even found out that one could write cogently about it, which he did during the 1980s and '90s on a variety of subjects, including an opposition to apartheid. In addition to Philosophy, he has been teaching and writing on his other great loves, namely, nature, culture, the arts, architecture and literature. In the face of the many irrational actions on the part of people, and wanting to understand these, later on he branched out into Psychoanalysis and Social Theory as well, and because Philosophy cultivates in one a strong sense of justice, he has more recently been harnessing what little knowledge he has in intellectual opposition to the injustices brought about by the dominant economic system today, to wit, neoliberal capitalism. His motto is taken from Immanuel Kant's work: 'Sapere aude!' ('Dare to think for yourself!') In 2012 Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University conferred a Distinguished Professorship on him. Bert is attached to the University of the Free State as Honorary Professor of Philosophy.

What we should learn from ecological art

To anyone not familiar with ecological art of the kind that one encounters in nature, the very notion may seem incongruous. Isn’t art what one…

Religious authoritarianism and social control

While reading Henry Giroux’s book, Against the New Authoritarianism (2005), I recalled Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), a riveting narrative of a post-nuclear war…

Xenophobia and economics

Just as road rage is not primarily about the person at whom the rage is directed, so the current, or recent, spate of attacks against…

Image, art, language and gender

Art as practice, phenomenon, activity, always exceeds any specific artist’s production. It therefore embodies a certain self-transcendence, which is why every era witnesses anew the…

The need for a College of Ideas

Since the late 1960s Western culture –- and the rest of the world’s cultures were not far behind –- has increasingly moved into a phase…

The importance of universities

It seems to me that it is important to reflect regularly on the function of universities in today’s rapidly changing, postmodern society, in the face…

Does architecture have an ethical function?

In his book, The ethical function of architecture (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1997), the American philosopher, Karsten Harries,* presents a persuasive, if novel, contemporary philosophy…

Happiness and fulfilment

My previous posting elicited a number of responses that, directly or indirectly, questioned the meaning of human happiness and fulfilment. At the outset of a…