memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Posts tagged ‘philosophy’

Saramago & Censorship



I read somewhere that during the time of Portuguese dictator, Antonio Salazar, The Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin was banned.



Several Portuguese intellectuals have showed how the various forms of censorship have hindered the cultural development of Portugal with the cultural elite becoming something of an aristocracy, disconnected from the rest of the population.

This is evident by the prevalence of a gap between popular culture and high culture, with the arraiais (popular gathering with light music and ball dancing), pimba music (based on double-entendre or straightforward sexual slang) and racho folclórico (folk and ethnological dancing and music groups) on one side, and literature, drama and classical music on the other.

I stepped from one side of the divide to the other.

Portugal has become one of the countries in Europe with the lowest attendances of theatre and the lowest rates of book-reading.

So during my years here, in this place,

Physically I have taken one step forward

Spiritually I have taken one step sideways

But culturally I have I have taken one step backward

Of course, philosophically, none of this should matter

But it matters to me

It matters to me



In 1992 the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Souza Lara, who had final say on applications from Portugal, prevented José Saramago’s The Gospel According to Jesus Christ from participating in the European Literary Award, positing that the work, rather than being representative of Portugal, was divisive for the Portuguese people.

As a result and in protest against what he saw as an act of censorship by the Portuguese government, Saramago moved to Spain, taking permanent residency in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.



In 1996 José Saramago won the most prestigious award in the world for a writer – the Nobel Prize for Literature.


The reaction of the Portuguese government was muted and ambivalent. On the one hand the (very natural) desire to vaunt the achievement of a Portuguese citizen was offset by the writer’s evident hostility to the culture of his native shores to the extent of becoming a permanent resident of a Spanish island.

Question of the day

If one man offers you democracy  and another offers a bag of grain, at what stage of starvation will you prefer the grain to the vote?

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (1872 – 1970)


Got to get me Some Philosophy


On this day I’ve got to get me some philosophy, fast.

Time is running out.

Let’s not pussy-foot around with right and wrong, good and evil, let’s go straight to the nub of the question viz: is there or is there not an afterlife?

It’s quite simple really – either there is, which can be good for some of us, depending on which belief-system we either, don’t subscribe to, notionally subscribe to, conventionally subscribe to (for the sake of appearance), fully subscribe to (in the sense that it provides a moral code for our lives), or fanatically subscribe to (which is frankly a bit over the top) –  or there is not, which is bad news for yours truly (and not much cop for the rest of human race since the beginning of its time on this planet).

I have made my decision. I’m going to put my chips on YES, Now let’s roll the dice.


Who the heck was Zeno when he was at home?

Who the heck was Zeno when he was at home?

All I know for sure is that he was the ancient Greek philosopher who was famous for his paradoxes and that his very name is redolent of an esoteric and all-embracing knowledge and wisdom.

Let’s wiki him, shall we? (to wiki, to google, to blog … I never thought the day would arrive when I used those verbs … mind you, in our day we had to hoover, to zerox, to fax and to DHL …) Ah, here we are:
ZENO of Elea (ca. 490 BC?) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher of Southern Italy, a member of The Eleatic School which was founded by Parminedes. Aristotle called him the inventor of the Dialectic. He was best known for his Paradoxes, which Bertrand Russell has described as «immeasurably subtle and profound».

Zeno’s arguments were the first examples of a method of proof called reductio ad absurbum. This form of argument soon became known as the epicheirema. In Book VII of his Topica, Aristotle says that an epicheirema is a dialectical syllogism …

But let’s not go down there because it’s late and I’m going to call it a day.

Oh well, at least I now know who the heck Zeno was when he was at home!

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