Written on November 5, 2007 by Arantza de Areilza in Arts & Cultures & Societies, Literature

Faust Arantza de Areilza

(Click here for this post in Spanish)

I have always been fascinated by Faust‘s legend which has its roots in the Middle Ages and to which successive generations have added their interpretations.  It is, perhaps, the idea of individual duality which underlies this Faustian legend: the complex relationships between good and evil, the man who is simultaneously good and evil, the fight between demons and gods in the heart of critical reason, the idea of the "elective affinities," as Goethe said, of ethics as a personal choice between conflicting values.

This Faustian myth underlines the Goethian idea that the study of humanity is man.  Faust speaks of the anxiety of wisdom and of its limits.  Faust longs for another soul, a limitless wisdom and search for the infinite saying "Remember that the devil is old, grow old, to understand him".

As Jose Maria González García described in his great work "Las Huellas de Fausto" (The Footprints of Faust), the laws of elective affinity determine the relationships between men and impregnate the whole creation of the human spirit.  Elective affinities are these "forces of attraction and repulsion that move human sympathies, the contraposition between liberty and passion and the destruction of stable bonds by the interruption of a new element".  Elective affinities are, by definition, the fight between duty and disposition.

Goethe’s Faust sold his soul to the devil in return for learning and experimentation in his insatiable and unsatisfied search for freedom, in a historic context, in which man stopped being a man of culture, and chose to be a man of specialization, in an economy which, for the first time, divided work.  From the renunciation of the Faustian universality of the man indebted to work specialization, the Universal Man embodied by Goethe, died, immersed in destiny.

Like him, I believe that destiny is not a divine imposition, but rather a product of the daemon, "this interior demon which moves the thread of his own life and whose power is impossible to steal", in the words of García González.

But: How does our society present men and women who aspire to be Men of Culture?  What has been lost with the disappearance of the Universal Man?  Should we reclaim the Kulturmensch?



Written on November 5, 2007 by DeansTalk in Philosophy

Fernando Fontes


Esta semana he leído en el ABC cultural una crítica literaria en la que se citaba una célebre frase de Sartre "El infierno son los otros".

Y esto me ha hecho recordar que Aristóteles decía "La felicidad pertenece a los que se bastan a sí mismos" y también he recordado que leyendo El arte de ser feliz de Schopenhauer, que el otro día mencionaba, éste alude a Chamfort en una cita, para mí, memorable: "La felicidad no es cosa fácil. Es muy difícil encontrarla dentro de nosotros mismos, e imposible encontrarla en otra parte".

¿Estáis de acuerdo? ¿Será cierto que todo intento de buscar la felicidad fuera de nosotros mismos puede ser "un esfuerzo estéril que nos lleve a la melancolía" que decía Ortega?

Yo no estoy seguro, creo que, hace unos años, hubiera estado, claramente, en contra de que la felicidad sólo se encuentra en uno mismo y, sin embargo, ahora empiezo a entender mejor a Aristóteles y a Chamfort, aunque, desde luego, no estoy en absoluto de acuerdo en que el infierno son los otros, porque si la felicidad está sólo en uno mismo, el infierno también.


All Mankind Is Us

Written on November 4, 2007 by Felicia Appenteng in Arts & Cultures & Societies

Felicia Appenteng


"Let us not waste our time in idle discourse! (Pause. Vehemently.) Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late!"

"Still Waiting on Repairs, New Orleans Hosts ‘Godot.’"


Arantza de Areilza

A little-known work by Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh is being exhibited publicly for the first time at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam

Strolling Couple has been kept in private collections for decades and shows a man and woman leaning towards each other while walking on a path next to a canal, her arm over his shoulder.

Vangoghcouplecp3839448_2 Strolling Couple (1888) by Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh is is a small piece of what remains of a larger canvas the artist discarded as a failure.
(Van Gogh Museum/Associated Press)

The artist painted it in March 1888, two years before his suicide. It’s a small part of a larger canvas he discarded because he didn’t like what he had created.

"He cut it out carefully and kept it, so there must have been some element, something special that he saw in it," said Nienke Bakker, a researcher from the museum who helped to organize the display. The exhibit is a tribute to van Gogh’s friendship with French painter Emile Bernard.

Van Gogh described his ideas for the painting to Bernard in a letter.

"I am sending you a little sketch of a study that is preoccupying me," van Gogh wrote. "Sailors coming back with their sweethearts toward the town, which projects the strange silhouette of its drawbridge against a huge yellow sun."

A reproduction of the sketch is displayed next to the painting.

The sketch contains notations of the colours van Gogh intended to use, down to the word "jaune" French for "yellow"on the man’s hat. The canal water is emerald green, as van Gogh had planned.

The painter would eventually do more canvasses portraying the same bridge outside Arles, France, from different perspectives.

Van Gogh started painting at age 27 but was largely unrecognized for his talent during his lifetime, save for a few friends and his brother Theo.

The artist, who suffered from debilitating bouts of depression, at one point cut off his ear.

He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1890 at age 37.

With files from the Associated Press

CBC News


Leonardo Da Vinci – Innovation in Daily Things

Written on November 2, 2007 by Santiago Iñiguez in Philosophy

Santiago Iñiguez

Da_vinci Leonardo Da Vinci Notes on Cookery and Table Etiquette (*)

Leonardo’s notebooks on culinary affairs ooze with so much irony that he probably wanted them inaccessible, a possible reason why the maestro wrote them backwards; an awkward practice common to all his handwritten documents. Amusingly, a menu designed by Leonardo and Botticelli for a Florence tavern was so illegible that, despite the proportioned figures drawn by the latter, neither clients nor cooks were able to interpret it.

Leonardo is considered a genius for all seasons and his notebooks also show that he was a tireless worker and that he kept everything under observation, his senses on the alert in order to improve objects and daily routines. This openness to the external world, to how things work and how can they be improved, is the basis of innovation and a desirable attitude for all managers. Intelligence without a constant disposition to improve practical things may become a useless asset.

The notes on kitchen were written by Leonardo for his own use, during his service as advisor to Luigi Sforza, the head of a prominent aristocratic family of Florence’s Renaissance. They include recipes, design of devices to improve cookery, recommendations on the etiquette at the table and more. For example, Leonardo is attributed to have introduced the use of napkins, as recorded in one of his notes: “An alternative to dirty table clothes” –apparently, guests used to clean themselves with the same tablecloth.   

I include some of the notes that caught my attention, though the whole book is recommendable and entertaining.

On new devices for the Kitchen

Leonardo’s notes of to-do-things and new objects to be designed, combined with his characteristic drawings, raise reader’s affection and admiration. In one of the notes, “the new machines that I have yet to design for my kitchens”, he announces his intention to develop different devices “to pluck ducks, cut pigs into small cubes, knead bread, grind meat and press sheep”. Another note deals with one of the first accounts of how freezing preserves food. He tells about a person called Leoni Buillarotti who every year took hundreds of frogs to Lake Trasimeno before it froze and then cut pieces of the ice with the frogs inside and kept them in a cold place. According to Leonardo, the frog’s legs cooked by Buillarotti were one of the most demanded exquisite delicacies of the time.

Read more…

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