August 25, 2011

Two Different Kinds of Moral Standards

Happy human Humanist logoImage via WikipediaI think there are two different kinds of moral standards: social and humanistic (yet to find a more accurate word).

The social moral standards are mostly created by human for establishing social stability. These include laws, religion doctrines and common customs (based on traditional ideology). The humanistic standards are discovered by our conscience, which derives from our nature. The former favors more on social needs, the latter more on individual rights.

History of moral system seems to evolve from strict social morality, which forbid individual desires or needs, toward humanistic morality, which embraces more and more individual rights. Examples such as marriage, patriotism, homosexuality, religious, etc. all demonstrated this route.
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August 14, 2011

Quotes from Liu Xiaobo (5)

Immanuel Kant developed his own version of the...Image via Wikipedia
(From Mist of Metaphysics, Chapter 4: Kant - the Copernicus-like Revolution )
Religionizing Science is the most indiscernible and most dangerous (process?), but religionizing faith is the nature of life. The impact of Kant's idea - God had nothing to do with science - to modern philosophy is to remind us: never to religionize science and knowledge. In modern philosophy, Karl Popper's scientific philosophy -that is the denial of religionizing science - is much more important than Nietzsche's denial of God, because what Popper said was what we are capable to do, and what Nietzsche was not.
(Kant) Fallacy originated from the pursue of absolute, ultimate or infinite by our reason, and the belief that this is achievable. This is what I said "mist of metaphysics" - the belief that our reason is capable of deciphering nature, unveiling the secret of life, deducing the existence of God, proving immortality of our soul. But all of these "capabilities" are delusional and fallacious. p226

The blind belief on fallacy is harmful, but not all harmful in terms of ethics. It brings infinite, unlimited and valuable hope to limited, transient and meaningless life. This "hope" can be both positive and negative: when it works as only a reference, it is positive; when it works as an absolute, it is negative. From this perspective, the losing "hope" of modern people is not really so hopeless, not really a collapse of everything, but just a destroy of those "absolute" - which worked as the only value of life, as a bound our hope. p226

No matter how dexterity and smart the Hegel's philosophy seems, overall, there's never been any philosophic systems as "obese" as Hegel's, never been any as "radiant" and "grand", and as stupid and pale. It indeed was a sparkling pyramid, but underneath, it didn't hold a seed of any life, but buried a putrid dead body. A tomb is a symbol of dead, no matter how grand it is. The wit of history is such: the true end of metaphysics was not marked by its sharpest opponent Kant, but by its most loyal follower - Hegel. p262
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August 5, 2011

Van Gogh's Contribution

Paul Gauguin's ArmchairImage via WikipediaI love Van Gogh's works from the first time I saw them, but for long time I did not consider him as the "greatest" among "greatests", because I always put "traditional realistic skills" in my art criterion, even though I knew from beginning that technique was just part of art process. However, very recently I changed my mind. I finally freed myself from such conventional standard of art, and be able to look at Van Gogh from a fresh view. And from this view, I found he is simply the greatest ever.

The importance of Van Gogh's art, addition to its artistic value, I believe, also lies in its (art) historical value: it revealed a long buried truth - art can be created without traditional (realistic) techniques.

For many people the evaluation of a painting is all about technique, or the "likeness", or the "philosophy", but all of these were not Van Gogh's concern. In Van Gogh's painting, we do not see the so-called "profound thoughts" or "concepts", we do not see the passive simulation of nature, rather, we see strong colors, impulsive brush strokes, and the imaginations created by such elements. And these elements, by my opinion, are essence of art.

Once in his life Van Gogh tried to learn realistic skill, but he could not stand the boring process of training, so very soon he quit. He was then considered by his teacher Mauve (also his cousin) as having no potential in art. However Van Gogh did not give up art. He told his brother Theo in his letters that he clearly knew what he was doing and what he wanted, and did not need that much "techniques". What he did proved what he said - within 10 years, a very short period of time, he created massive amount of works with distinguished style, which we had never seen before.

There were several Van Gogh's contemporary artists (such as Gauguin and Rousseau) also reached high achievement without strong academic art training, but in my opinions, their realistic skills were all better than Van Gogh. I believe upon that time (late 19th century), Van Gogh was the only person who made such high level of creative art with the LEAST realistic art training.

This is Van Gogh's contribution - he simply destroyed academic tradition of art. He reached the "heart of art" without all those rational "rubbish". Face to face, heart to heart, Van Gogh made love with art by his "naked" communication with the nature. Starting from him, art gradually came back to its original form: emotional expressive, playful and intuitive, other than rational, thoughtful and technical, which had dominated western art tradition for thousands years. Of course, I should not say this change happened by Van Gogh's effort alone, but he certainly made the "loudest" impact on this crucial turn in art history.

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August 4, 2011

Memoir at the Foot of Ngong Hill - Isak Dinesen's "Out Of Africa"

Ngong HillsImage by Mpigapicha via FlickrFirst I must say that this book is not for modern entertainment. It was a book Blixen wrote for herself. Only those who are interested in her "personally", or her unusual life experience, can be patient enough to finish the book.

Inside this book, Blixen recalled her life in Africa, when she had a farm at foot of Ngong Hills, Kenya. Very differently from the movie, she didn't mention any of her private life. She only had one sentence for her husband, and about Denys Finch Hatton, who was so important in the movie, Blixen only contributed about 40 pages (among whole 370 pages), in which we found no explicit description about they "love affair".

The opening pages about Africa highlands and Ngong Hills are simply brilliant. It's the best part of the book which I could read again and again (it reminds me the opening chapter of "Rebecca"). Soon after finishing "painting" this scenery, Blixen spent majority part of book to write about some native characters, such as her servants,cooks, etc. She also mentioned her white friends, who came to visit her and entertained her lonely time. Among these "entertainment" Denys Finch Hatton was the most important one.

Within about 40 pages, Blixen wrote about her "friendship" with Denys: their amazing Safaris, and their once almost daily amazing activity - flying over Africa Highlands. Even though she did not directly describe the true nature of their relationship, it is not hard for readers to see their intimacy. The death of Denys was plainly described, which shows me how tough Blixen was. She also wrote quite much details about choosing burying place for Denys, at the top of Ngong Hills, as Denys wished. The narration in the end of movie was exactly the same from the book, except the last sentence.

Denys Finch Hatton seemed to be an extraordinary figure. Among all his alleged "fine" qualities I admire his free and adventurous spirit the most. So I feel very happy for him that he was buried in a place that fits his will. He deserved this glorious land.

White people are not the main theme of this book. This book is all about native people. Native Africans seemed to be very fascinating to Blixen. They were so different from Europeans, but Blixen did not judge the differences by European stands (not even polygamy). Not only she respected their customs, but also their intelligence. In the movie, this view towards native was transmitted by Denys, but in book, this is Blixen's own philosophy - she admired native culture, found they had more advantages than Europeans in dealing with nature and life. They are many moving details about her relationship with native people, especially during her "hard time" - when she faced 'bankruptcy" and had to live the place she loved so dearly.

Karen Blixen Museum, Nairobi, KenyaImage via Wikipedia
Beside the natives, Blixen's true heroine of this book is African nature. Having been fancying Africa myself for long time, I found the best part of the book are those rich colored delineations of nature: lands, mountains, trees, clouds, sky, animals, and the best of all, the "air". Under her eyes, Africa was impersonated, and interacted with her mind like her confidant (even when she described her relationship with Denys, she used the nature as a metaphor). The book both starts and ends by Ngong Hills, a glorious "noble" mountain which can be seen from Blixen's house. Even though the whole book is not fictional, not chronological, but the real "protagonist"- Africa landscape puts all details together.

Yes, this book was written for Blixen herself, but it was also written for Africa, and for thsoe whoever love Africa and the Nature.

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