Book Reviews, Philosophy, Sociocultural Phenomena

William Morris (1834–1896): News from Nowhere (1890) – A Socialist Utopia

«So long as the system of competition in the production and exchange of the means of life goes on, the degradation of the arts will go on; and if that system is to last for ever, then art is doomed, and will surely die; that is to say, civilization will die.» (W. Morris)

“William Morris (1834–1896): News from Nowhere (1890) – A Socialist Utopia”

Book Reviews, Love, Philosophy, Sociocultural Phenomena

Roland Barthes (1915–1980): Fragments d’un discours amoureux (1977)

Roland Barthes’s texts on love are incredibly beautiful, profound, and always radically to the point. With love for detail and relentless analytic precision, he unveils all our joys and fears, as well as our sophisticated systematics of self-deception that we develop on the way to love faute de mieux.

“Roland Barthes (1915–1980): Fragments d’un discours amoureux (1977)”

Michel de Montaigne, Philosophy, Sociocultural Phenomena

Montaigne in praise of booze

«The greatest benefit to be had from good health is sensual pleasure. So we should always seize the first pleasure available and accessible to us.» … «I have never experienced any harm from something that gives me pleasure. That is why I have decided to more or less ignore all medical advice that goes against my pleasure.» … (Book III, Chapter 13: «Of Experience»)

“Montaigne in praise of booze”

Philosophy, Sociocultural Phenomena, Visual Arts

Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel (1834–1919): draftsman, physician, zoologist, philosopher, and freethinker

Who was this «German Darwin», the scholar whom particularly conservative circles and the Catholic Church criticized for his evolutionary theory and insulted as the «Ape Professor»? The man who coined the term Oecologie in 1866? Due to whom biology lessons were altogether banned by law from classrooms in Prussia? Who was proclaimed «antipope» at an international congress of freethinkers in Rome in 1904? Who wrote in Magnus Hirschfeld’s magazine for sexology about human hermaphrodites? Whose ideas even left-wing circles were interested in, but whose writings on «eugenics» and »racial hygiene» were later appropriated by the Nazis, and who posthumously became a progressive inspiration for «real existing socialism» in the German Democratic Republic?

“Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel (1834–1919): draftsman, physician, zoologist, philosopher, and freethinker”

Love, Sociocultural Phenomena

Online Dating: The Future of Love?

At first, I was ashamed when I started to use dating apps for my erotic encounters a few years ago. To approach potential lovers or partners in this way seemed too undignified and anonymous to me. In addition, the required self-promotion reminded me too overtly of the lonely-hearts ads in newspapers and magazines of my youth, which were always a welcome target of our ridicule.

“Online Dating: The Future of Love?”

Book Reviews, Sociocultural Phenomena, Travels

Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859): The Invention of Nature (part 2)

It was only after the death of his mother in 1796 that Alexander von Humboldt was able to tackle his expedition plans. Although the travel arrangements were bolstered by his inheritance, he was repeatedly tripped up in the chaos of European warfare. So it took him until 1799 to finally land in Venezuela, the first stop on his South American journey. With access to the Spanish colonies in Latin America being closely controlled, he was only able to enter and travel the country thanks to a special passport granted to him by the Spanish king.

“Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859): The Invention of Nature (part 2)”

Book Reviews, Sociocultural Phenomena

Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859): The invention of nature (part 1)

It was Alexander von Humboldt who emphatically asserted as early as 200 years ago that the climate was changing as a result of human intervention in nature. He was definitely a key figure in the scientific development of the 19th century and one of the most well-known and globally influential personalities of his time. The U.S.-American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) called him «the most famous man in the world after Napoleon» and described Humboldt’s eyes as natural telescopes and microscopes.

“Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859): The invention of nature (part 1)”

Love, Sociocultural Phenomena

Love as antidote to our compulsive individualism

«Modern man has a personality problem. Because our modern everyday life is such a big role play, people can never bring their whole individuality into society, always only parts of it. In nearly all areas of society, the modern individual is forced to play certain parts, be it as a hot dog vendor or as a superstar. Only this disguise gives them access to society. ‹Whole› people, by contrast, are usually asked to ‹wait outside›. In a way, split personalities are the norm nowadays. Except in love, where the whole person gets a chance. This promise of wholeness makes love a modern agency of meaning-making.» (Christian Schuldt, Der Code des Herzens. Liebe und Sex in den Zeiten maximaler Möglichkeiten («The Code of the Heart. Love and Sex in Times of Maximum Opportunities»), Eichborn Verlag, Frankfurt 2004, Chapter IV, Ich liebe, also bin ich («I love, therefore I am»)

“Love as antidote to our compulsive individualism”

Sociocultural Phenomena

The Gender of Desire – Thoughts on masculinity, Trumpism, and the so-called «American Dream»

Turning to the issue of «love», I came across the US-American author Michael S. Kimmel and his relatively recent book The Gender of Desire. Essays on Male Sexuality (State University of New York Press, 2005), which is one of the few creditable publications on this topic. Why is there so little of interest being published in this respect?

What absolutely amazed me and abruptly opened and expanded my understanding of the American male psyche like nothing else ever before is the chapter «Masculinity as Homophobia. Fear, Shame and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity.»

“The Gender of Desire – Thoughts on masculinity, Trumpism, and the so-called «American Dream»”