Old notes on etymology

The profundity of language.— You can gain great insight into the human condition, into the nature of the mind, by studying the evolution of words. For example, what’s the significance of the fact that words like illusion, elude, allude, and delude are variations on the Latin word for ‘play’? Johan Huizinga discusses this in Homo Ludens.... Or think of the word ‘interest.’ As Hannah Arendt says, “something is of interest to people [insofar as] it inter-est, it is between them.” It draws them together. “Philosophy is inter-esting.” Arendt again: the word ‘sensible’ means, among other things, “capable of receiving sensory impressions,” a definition that leads to “receptive to external influence

Industrial unionism in the meatpacking industry

Here are old notes of mine on a very good book by the historian Roger Horowitz, “Negro and White, Unite and Fight!”: A Social History of Industrial Unionism in Meatpacking, 1930-1990 (1997). Introduction: Unlike most CIO unions after 1950, the UPWA (United Packinghouse Workers of America) “retained the insurgent spirit of the 1930s’ labor movement in the changed circumstances of postwar America. The union remained, by and large, democratic and accepted considerable internal political diversity throughout its existence. UPWA locals generally retained considerable influence over the work process through extensive shop-floor steward organizations....” (2, 3). Committed to social justice and ant

Grad-school notes on Populism and Progressivism

In The Populist Vision, Charles Postel argues persuasively that Populism, the greatest popular movement in American history, should not be called (as it sometimes is) anti-modern, ‘traditional,’ anti-industrial, anti-progress, even anti-capitalist in a strict sense. What it opposed was not ‘modernity’ or industrial progress or technological efficiency or the market but a particular kind of corporate capitalism. It wanted to modernize the farmer’s way of life in a manner that benefited him, that enabled him to get out from under the thumb of banks, merchants, railroads, etc. Populism was decidedly in favor of progress -- which meant public education for millions in the South and West, scienti

On existentialism

July, 2007.-- Reading The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, by Camus. Impressive book. Tries to answer the question I was preoccupied with for a while, to wit: given Absurdity, how ought one to live? How can one affirm life while retaining intellectual integrity? Is it possible? The answer I gave was Yes. N.B.: What I have meant by “absurdity” is not quite what Camus means by it. My idea is broader. He characterizes the absurd as revolving around the human mind’s inability to fully understand the world, to rationally digest all its facets. The human mind demands that the world meet the expectations of reason, but it fails to do so; hence there is intellectual despair. Much of life is incomp

Marxism and Meadism

August, 2007.-- Here’s one of the many parallels between Marxism and 'Meadism' [i.e., George Herbert Mead's system of thought]: “Human society, we have insisted, does not merely stamp the pattern of its organized social behavior upon any one of its individual members, so that this pattern becomes likewise the pattern of the individual’s self; it also, at the same time, gives him a mind, as the means or ability of consciously conversing with himself in terms of the social attitudes which constitute the structure of his self and which embody the pattern of human society’s organized behavior as reflected in that structure. And his mind enables him in turn to stamp the pattern of his further dev

Critical thoughts on "The Alchemist"

[From 2006.] Reading The Alchemist, the novel that has sold tens of millions of copies. “To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation.” “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” “God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the omens that he left for you.” “There is a force that wants you to realize your Personal Legend.” “Whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.” In short, try to achieve your dreams. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Life has meaning, and God cares about you. E

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