Written on November 6, 2007 by Rafael Puyol in Arts & Cultures & Societies

Rafael Puyol

(Click here to read this post in Spanish)


How few people in Spain are bilingual!  Certainly for many Spaniards languages are long overdue.  First it was isolationism, followed by a curriculum that did not emphasise language instruction, then our late entry into the European Union and the fact that all films are dubbed, which, although voiced by solid professionals, hinders learning languages.  I don’t know who it was that said a Spaniard is a permanent student of English.  Spanish families, compensating for the deficiencies of the public system, invest a fortune to teach their children to speak English, but very few end up doing so properly.  it seems to me that this is a problem and a challenge of the first order and that we are not paying enough attention to it.  Although it is through a different educational path, Basques and Catalans are indeed bilingual because they learn Spanish in addition to their own language.  But that bilingualism is on the verge of disappearing.  The children of these communities (and to a lesser degree those of certain others) already don’t learn enough Spanish in school.  These young people will soon cease to be Castilian-speaking population.

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Inherited guilt

Written on November 6, 2007 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Arts & Cultures & Societies, Philosophy

Adaneva_2 Miguel Herrero de Jáuregui

Some posts in this wonderful blog have been dwelling lately on the Fall of Man, the inexistence of a pre-determined destiny, the problem of evil, and other related subjects. Let me contribute to such musings by writing some lines on the fascinating topic of inherited guilt (on which I will refer to the works of the world-authority on those themes, Renaud Gagné). It seems an archaic concept, doesn’t it? The thought that one is guilty of the faults of the ancestors, so that one pays due punishment for their crimes, seems terribly ancient and far from modern enlightened ideas as personal responsibility, free will, and presumption of innocence.

Of course, Christian doctrine of original sin, which has mankind condemned to pay for Adam’s initial fault, is the first instance which comes to our minds. Still, though it seems to be reviving in some fundamentalist circles, that doctrine seems to have progressively lost importance in the past decades within the Christian churches, helped by the acceptance that the Book of Genesis does not tell actual history. Original sin could be thought a rest of ealier times which is swiftly becoming a fossile, an improductive concept doomed to oblivion, because it shares the patterns of inherited guilt which our society has rejeted as unfair and inhuman. And yet…

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Digging up the Zeitgeist on Brahms’ Requiem

Written on November 6, 2007 by Rolf Strom-Olsen in Arts & Cultures & Societies, Philosophy

Rolf Strom-Olsen

I am posting this rather late (i.e. today, instead of last week). This delay was provoked by (among other rather more serious commitments) fulfilling a promise I had made to provide some programme notes for a performance this week of Brahms’ ponderous and lengthy "German Requiem." As that description may suggest, I have never been a fan of Brahms’ Requiem, his longest composition written when he was in his early thirties between 1865 and 1867. George Bernard Shaw remarked "There are some experiences in life which should not be demanded twice from any man, and one of them is listening to the Brahms Requiem." I was not quite of that opinion, but I understood the sentiment.

436pxjohannes_brahms_1853 Or at least I thought I did. One of the interesting things about writing on a topic is, of course, one acquires more than a passing familiarity with it. Having never really bothered with the piece, I was astonished to learn certain facts about the work, most of which I now understand to be elementary. Some were technical, such as the almost promiscuous use of neo-Baroque fugal writing. Others were of a more basic nature. Like the German Requiem is not, in the liturgical sense, a Requiem. Who knew? Well, plenty of folks apparently, but never underestimate one’s own cultural ignorance. There’s just too much damn culture out there to know it all!

Anyway, As I slogged through the score and digested various scholarly articles, I started to acquire a newfound respect for the composition. First off, it’s good music. Better than I had earlier thought. But I also took a much closer look at the text and its context and discovered some interesting things.

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Written on November 6, 2007 by DeansTalk in Arts & Cultures & Societies

Faust Arantza de Areilza

Siempre me ha fascinado la leyenda de Fausto que hunde sus raíces en
el Medievo y a la que las sucesivas épocas han ido añadiendo sus
interpretaciones. Es, quizá, la idea de la dualidad del individuo la
que subyace en esta leyenda faústica: las complejas relaciones entre el
bien y el mal, el hombre bueno y malo al mismo tiempo, la lucha entre
demonios y dioses en el seno la razón crítica, la idea de las
"afinidades electivas" como decía Goethe, de la ética como elección
personal entre valores en conflicto.

Este mito faústico destila la idea goethiana de que el estudio
propio de la humanidad es el hombre. El Fausto habla del ansia de
sabiduría y de sus límites. Fausto anhela otra alma, una sabiduría sin
límites y la búsqueda del infinito diciendo "Recordad que el diablo es
viejo;envejeced, pues, para comprenderlo".

Como describe José Mª González García en su magnífico libro "Las
huellas de Fausto", las leyes de la afinidad electivas determinan las
relaciones entre los hombres e impregnan toda creación del espíritu
humano. Las afinidades electivas son esas "fuerzas de atracción y
repulsión que mueven los afectos humanos, la contraposición entre
libertad y pasión y la destrucción de los vínculos estables por la
irrupción de un elemento nuevo". Las afinidades electivas son, en
definitiva, la lucha entre el deber y la inclinación.

El Fausto de Goethe vendió su alma al diablo a cambio de tiempo de
aprendizaje y experimentación en su búsqueda insaciable e insatisfecha
de libertad, en un contexto histórico, en el que el hombre pasaba de
ser hombre de cultura a ser hombre de especialidad, en una economía
que, por primera vez, divide el trabajo. De la renuncia a la
universalidad fáustica de lo humano debido a la especialización del
trabajo, moría el Hombre Universal que encarnó Goethe sumido en el

Como él, creo que el destino no es una imposición divina sino
producto del daimon, "ese demonio interior que mueve los hilos de la
propia vida y a cuyo poder es imposible sustraerse", en palabras de
García González. Y me parece importante recordar la idea esperanzadora
de Goethe sobre cómo, a través de la belleza, se llega a la libertad, y
sobre cómo, la educación estética, consigue reconciliar pasión y razón
armonizando el carácter del hombre.

Pero: ¿Cómo trata nuestra sociedad presente a los hombres y mujeres
que aspiran a ser Hombres de Cultura? ¿Qué se ha perdido con la
desaparición del Hombre Universal? ¿Deberíamos recuperar al



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?

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