Towards Better Democracy

Good words, well written, better the world. Good literature betters the world immeasurably.

Reprehensible or not: James Comey: ‘You stare at children crying – what kind of people are we?’

Reprehensible or not: James Comey: ‘You stare at children crying – what kind of people are we?’

Malcolm D B Munro
Thursday 21 June, 2018


Filed under: art, Arts, Current Events, history, Literature, Media, Memoir, politics, stories

F. T. Prince – Soldiers Bathing

The sea at evening moves across the sand
Under a reddening sky I watch the freedom of a band
Of soldiers who belong to me. Stripped bare
For bathing in the sea, they shout and run in the warm air;
Their flesh worn by the trade of war, revives
And my mind towards the meaning of it strives.

All’s pathos now. The body that was gross,
Rank, ravenous, disgusting in the act or in repose,
All fever, filth and sweat, its bestial strength
And bestial decay, by pain and labour grows at length
Fragile and luminous. ‘Poor bare forked animal,’ (*)
Conscious of his desires and needs and flesh that rise and fall,
The sweetness of his nakedness: letting the sea-waves coil
Their frothy tongues about his feet, forgets
His hatred of the war, its terrible pressure that begets
A machinery of death and slavery,
Each being a slave and making slaves of others: finds that he
Remembers his old freedom in a game
Mocking himself, and comically mimics fear and shame.

He plays with death and animality;
And reading in the shadows of his pallid flesh, I see
The idea of Michelangelo’s cartoon
Of soldiers bathing, breaking off before they were half done
At some sortie of the enemy, an episode
Of the Pisan wars with Florence. I remember how he showed
Their muscular limbs that clamber from the water,
And heads that turn across the shoulder, eager for the slaughter,
Forgetful of their bodies that are bare,
And hot to buckle on and use the weapons lying there.
–- And I think too of the theme another found
When, shadowing men’s bodies on a sinister red ground
Another Florentine, Pollaiuolo,
Painted a naked battle: warriors, straddled, hacked the foe,
Dug their bare toes into the ground and slew
The brother-naked man who lay between their feet and drew
His lips back from his teeth in a grimace.

They were Italians who knew war’s sorrow and disgrace
And showed the thing suspended, stripped: a theme
Born out of the experience of war’s horrible extreme
Beneath a sky where even the air flows
With lacrimae Christi. For that rage, that bitterness, those blows,
That hatred of the slain, what could they be
But indirectly or directly a commentary
On the Crucifixion? And the picture burns
With indignation and pity and despair by turns,
Because it is the obverse of the scene
Where Christ hangs murdered, stripped, upon the Cross. I mean,
That is the explanation of its rage.

And we too have our bitterness and pity that engage
Blood, spirit, in this war. But night begins,
Night of the mind: who nowadays is conscious of our sins?
Though every human deed concerns our blood,
And even we must know, what nobody has understood,
That some great love is over all we do,
And that is what has driven us to this fury, for so few
Can suffer all the terror of that love:
The terror of that love has set us spinning in this groove
Greased with our blood.

                                                  These dry themselves and dress,
Combing their hair, forget the fear and shame of nakedness.
Because to love is frightening we prefer
The freedom of our crimes. Yet, as I drink the dusky air,
I feel a strange delight that fills me full,
Strange gratitude, as if evil itself were beautiful,
And kiss the wound in thought, while in the west
I watch a streak of red that might have issued from Christ’s breast.

F.T. Prince – Soldiers Bathing

Malcolm D B Munro
Monday 18 June, 2018

 * from King Lear by William Shakspeare

Filed under: art, history, Media, Memoir, Music, poetry, songs, stories

Roy Campbell – Luís de Camões

Camões, alone, of all the lyric race,
Born in the black aurora of disaster,
Can look a common soldier in the face:
I find a comrade where I sought a master:
For daily, while the stinking crocodiles
Glide from the mangroves on the swampy shore,
He shares my awning on the dhow, he smiles,
And tells me that he lived it all before.
Through fire and shipwreck, pestilence and loss,
Led by the ignis fatuus of duty
To a dog’s death—yet of his sorrows king—
He shouldered high his voluntary Cross,
Wrestled his hardships into forms of beauty,
And taught his gorgon destinies to sing.

Roy Campbell – Luís de Camões

Malcolm D B Munro
Monday 18 June, 2018

Filed under: art, history, Memoir, Music, poetry, songs, stories

Luís de Camões – Os Lusíadas (The Lusiads)

Canto I

As armas e os Barões assinalados
Que da Ocidental praia Lusitana
Por mares nunca de antes navegados
Passaram ainda além da Taprobana,
Em perigos e guerras esforçados
Mais do que prometia a força humana,
E entre gente remota edificaram
Novo Reino, que tanto sublimaram.

Luís de Camões – Os Lusíadas

Malcolm D B Munro
Monday 18 June, 2018

Filed under: art, history, Literature, Media, Memoir, poetry, songs, stories

John Donne – Batter my heart, three-person’d God

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labour to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

John Donne

Malcolm D B Munro
Monday 18 June, 2018

Filed under: art, English poetry, history, Literature, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories, , , , , , , , , , ,

John Donne – Death be not proud

                                The Holy Sonnets
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
Malcolm DB Munro
Saturday 16 June, 2018

Filed under: art, English poetry, history, Literature, Media, poetry, stories, , , , ,

Gerard Manley Hopkins – The Windhover

                                     To Christ our Lord
I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
    dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
    Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
    As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
    Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
    Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
   No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
    Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.
Gerard Manley Hopkins –  The Windhover
Malcolm DB Munro
Saturday 16 June, 2018
in the public domain

Filed under: art, English poetry, history, Literature, Media, poetry, songs, stories, , , , , , , ,

Rise of the machines: has technology evolved beyond our control?

Rise of the machines: has technology evolved beyond our control?
Friday 15 June 2018, Thomas Brindle, The Guardian

Filed under: art, Current Events, history, Media, politics, stories

Leaving the Union

Leaving the Union

Leaving the Union                                                                 Copyright 2018 the Artist


Malcolm DB Munro
Monday 11 June, 2018

Filed under: art, Current Events, history, Media, Music, poetry, politics, songs, stories

The mind problem: the body knows better

With only the mind we humans would be utterly impoverished. With only a mind we would be dumb beasts of burden. And not the Supreme Beings we consider ourselves to be.

As noted elsewhere, René Descartes did humanity and science a disservice.  In conceiving the mind as being separate from the body, he postulated a view which has been absorbed into the language as a concept: that the mind is not connected to the body, is not a part of it. The effect has been destructive because an erroneous view has been adopted in lay thinking and that has paralyzed scientific and philosophical thought. The lay view has been absorbed into a world view because the educated view has said this is so; that the mind is separate from body, that there is a divide between it and its parent.  This is very far from the truth. No body, no mind.

Descartes has been accepted, hook, line and sinker, without further thought. His view has not been developed. As with any genius, and René Descartes certainly was, and his ideas brilliant. But not all of them. Those ideas and concepts are not in toto correct. Few views so presented are.

The views held by Aristotle form the basis of the Scientific Method. For example, he came up with concepts and a perceptual view of the world which has been of inestimable help to humans, given that we are on an endless quest in understanding the phenomena we perceive around us. As such, or as importantly of all, we are indebted to him for his naming more cogently, more understandably, than any previous to him or amongst him, our perception of the world. For, as much, if not all, of the phenomenal is cloaked in myth, little of what we see will be understood. (In fact much knowledge still unexplored by us with our mind = body problem is contained in myth. But that is another story.)

For example, Aristotle posited the concept of the monad, a word used in the quotation above. We do not use the word monad; the writer of the quotation does. We understand the word atom instead. In doing so we particularize a word and make it more understandable. Of course we could use his word. No reason why we should not have done so, but we have not. We have chosen the word we use because we wish to differentiate what we mean from what Aristotle meant. We intend precision, we find Aristotle vague. For us, well maybe, we use atom because we can define what we understand an atom to be, of what it comprises. For that we have a theory. What Descartes’ mind – body thing is a belief. Hence us swallowing him whole. We believe him. Contrariwise, Dalton’s theory can be supported by evidence. At least until such times as contrary evidence is produced. None have been so far.

Descartes’ believe still grips us in its spell and we are hypnotized by it, as by the stare of snake.

And here we can point to a broad problem which we will explore either in this essay or, perhaps, in another. For now, we frequently, in order to describe something we don’t have a name for use metaphor. This means of naming is inappropriate in its use to attempt to point to something we don’t have a name for since the metaphor has no real referent. (Mind you the simile is far worse.)

In all that I have said so far, I am talking in the way that Descartes did and as most philosophers have done and still do.

So sum up where we are at this point in the discussion, Descartes treated the mind essentially as if the body does not exist. I think the body does exist and the mind is inexorably a part of it. The damage done is illustrated by the fact that we have a bunch of philosophers have invented a study called Theory of Mind. While there is to a certain extent validity in it, and it is certainly intellectually stimulating, such a field of inquiry as so conceived, will always be a reductio adsurdum as much as talk of the soul is – another orphan term. Thankfully we do not have a philosophical field of inquiry into the theory of the soul. Not as far as I know. We leave that to Religion and stay well away despite Aristotle attempt to lure us into doing so. We have Dark Night of the Soul (La noche oscura del alma) and long may it remain there.

But in this essay we are not going to talk of the Mind – Body Problem because no problem exists. The problem is of a different kind. This problem is that we have no language with which to talk philosophically as to what the body consists of, or, perhaps as some philosophers would put it, what the body consists in.

The essay will only, within reasonable length, be able to point to the problem and say that it exists. To more fully explore this problem would take a far longer essay than I intend this one to be, a paper, or, maybe, the chapter of a book.

Let’s have a look at some attempt at saying what the body is. What we might find are definitions or descriptions. Let’s see. But bear in mind that we wish to describe the body philosphically.

Philosophers believe the body as any material object is with our perception. Its basic properties are the size, mass and impenetrability. Phenomenologists distinguish the human body [From what? The body is distinguishable? True, it is not a ghost.], called body-subject, because it is related to subjectivity [What? Is not the body an object? Objectivity is possible, surely. We do not usually talk of the body subjectively unless it is to say, “I feel hot.” Things like that]. The classic question is the relationship of body and soul [Soul? Relationship. I thought this paragraph is about what the philosophy of the body is. ]. Some, like Spinoza think this report in the way of unity (monism), the other on the dual mode (parallel) [The sentence is ungrammatical and not really subject to analysis. Still talk of unity is useful. Dual mode is not. A philosophy which does not define terms is hardly a philosophy. At least Descartes elaborated on what he meant.].

The square brackets in the quotation are mine. I chose this particular definition because it contains within an important word in it: unity. And this is the central point. There is a unity in all phenomena which refer to the body. If the mind is separate from the body, it does not exist. If you are going to talk of mind in relationship to the body then you must ipso facto accept that the mind is a part of the body, however abstract we think the mind is. Monism has to be where it is at. There is no philosophy that truly embraces dualism. If we do accept this view, then we back where we started, Descartes and the Mind / Body problem.

Now if we accept that the idea of mind is a nonphysical entity. the answer would be yes. However, as with science’s rejection of monad and use of atom instead, we say that we can make mind a physical thing, then I say we can. At least, neuroscience can say, “This is mind. These are the neurons that operate the mind.” At this point we are saying that mind is much like consciousness; consciousness as opposed to unconsciousness; awareness as distinct from unawareness., “Do you realize what you doing?”

We have now moved a long way forward. At least we recognize that consciousness is in some way a part of the body. We can say this because we have an opposite. The body is not thought of as being in opposition to the mind. Though psychologists would certainly point to a state of being where it is. But that is from a medical point of view, though an interesting one, nonetheless.

The essay does not really honour its title. Because it will only argue that the mind is not the best or only means by which we an conduct inquiry. In fact, the point is to say that, to use a term I dislike, we can engage in whole body thinking and achieve a far better understanding of world and what are its constituents. For we barely understand, taking only a logical or analytical view of it. Our understanding is limited terribly if we do. We see this in the limits we are reaching: black holes, dark matter, the futher reaches of the atom, the depths of the cell and so on.

Hence, the body thinks better than the mind. Thinks? Ah, there we have it. Language begins to break down. Our philosphical vocabulary with regard to the body is poor, close to nonexistent. Without terms we can describe nor discuss anything. In the phrase, “The cat sat on the mat.,” we are simply teaching grammar or whatever this pedagogic phrase sets out to do, we are teaching concepts. Cat, mat. Physical things, true. But all language, all languages do that. There is no need to teach such stuff in school. We learn it on the street, in the fields. People spoke grammatically long before grammar began to be taught in schools. But, like Tartuffe’s Dupe, we never knew we spoke prose. Why did we need to know?. We were fluent without it.

The human body is the entire structure [An erroneous term if we are defining what the body is. We might better say: structure and envelope, unless the skin which encloses the body is thought of as a structure, which it is. The structure of the skin is one of a collection of cells organized in a particular way. But this misses out by not identifying function. Both building and bridge are structures but that does not say what a bridge nor a building. A better definition, and a better, simpler one would be to say that the body is a structure composed of cells, groups of which have different functions, these groupings depending on function.] of a human being. It is composed of many different types of cells that together create tissues and subsequently organ systems [System is a good word to describe the body, but only if we think of the body as a system of systems; biological systems not manufactured ones.]. They ensure homeostasis and the viability of the human body. [The examples chosen are an indication of the quality of content available on the Web where much intellectual discussion is contained in blogs. Nothing wrong with that. But, supposing you wished for more substance you will not find it. Even sites putting themselves up as being souces of knowledge are shallow and are rags compared to the riches that come from a publisher such as Oxford University Press or that of Harvard. I say this as an aside because, if we are to become more and more reliant on the Web, even more than we are at present, what we find and will continue to find is pretty thin gruel.]

This definition is broadly a medical one and not a philosophical one. We could discuss the body as phenomenon. But that is not what we are going to do.

Instead, in order to conclude what must be a short essay, we are going to point to other modes by which the body apprehends phenomena; intuit, perceive. imagine. conceive: (There are many more.) states which might be thought of as states of mind but are not. Often we are told, “Empty the mind, your awareness and understanding will be greater.” The body not only knows better than the mind, it thinks better.

Malcolm D B Munro
Sunday 10 June, 2018

Footnote: The essay is based on no single source nor sources and is stand alone. The example of The Philosophy of the Body, poor though it is, illustrates the paucity of material thrown up in a single Google search. Ah the perils of any reliance on the Web. A glaring example, surely, of why books in printed form will exist for a very long time. Mind you, it, the Web, is good at answering the question, “What’s for supper tonight.”


Filed under: art, Arts, cells, Current Events, Cytokines, history, life sciences, Media, Music, poetry, Proteins, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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