Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin.

Why Darwin?

Pterocnemia pennata (Original description: Rhe...
Pterocnemia pennata (Original description: Rhea darwinii) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stephen Jay Gould

April 4, 1996 Issue

Charles Darwin: Voyaging

by Janet Browne

Knopf, 605 pp., $35.00


Most young men of the time could only fantasize, but Charles Darwin experienced the overt drama of his century’s archetypal episode in the personal story we now call “coming of age”: a five-year voyage of pure adventure (and much science) circumnavigating the globe on H.M.S. Beagle. Returning to England at age twenty-seven, Darwin became a homebody and never again left his native land, not even to cross the English Channel. Nonetheless, his subsequent life included two internal dramas for more intense, far more portentous, and (for anyone who can move beyond the equation of swashbuckling with excitement) far more interesting than anything he had experienced as a world traveler: first, the intellectual drama of discovering both the factuality and mechanism of evolution; and second, the emotional drama of recognizing (and relishing) the revolutionary implications of evolution, while fearing the pain that revelation would impose upon both his immediate family and the surrounding society.

Read the review

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) at age 7. The paint...
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) at age 7. The painting is the earliest picture known, of Charles Darwin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



 A great story. Personal note: I enlisted in the USMC at 17 for the next war.

When I was seventeen, bravado, mingled with what must have been a death wish, made me enlist in the officer-training program of the Marine Corps. Since those in my age group were considerably too callow to lead troops into battle, it was decided at the Navy Department that we would be sent to college, where, as book-toting privates, we would gain a little learning and seasoning, and also a year or two of physical and mental growth, before our fateful collision with the Japs.

Read here.

Footnote to “Letter from South America”

Bullshit Ahead warning in style of warning roa...
Bullshit Ahead warning in style of warning road sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The world is awash in bullshit. Politicians are unconstrained by facts. Science is conducted by press release. So-called higher education often rewards bullshit over analytic thought. Startup culture has elevated bullshit to high art. Advertisers wink conspiratorially and invite us to join them in seeing through all the bullshit, then take advantage of our lowered guard to bombard us with second-order bullshit. The majority of administrative activity, whether in private business or the public sphere, often seems to be little more than a sophisticated exercise in the combinatorial reassembly of bullshit.

Check this out!


Sunday’s Sermon


Who is the author? Regular readers of the Blog will recognize this quote from Albert Camus, who is one of Bob’s heroes. I just did a search for Camus on the Blog and this list will indicate the many times he has been written about here.

It was on January 4, 1960 that Camus was killed in a car crash.

His works live on though, and he continues to be relevant. Take a look at the list.

In January of 1960, a powerful sports car was traveling north in France towards Paris. Albert Camus was a passenger in the car. He had won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1957 and had been called in the presentation speech “the conscience of the 20th century.” He had been an actor and an editor, a dramatist and a novelist, and was active in the underground resistance against the Nazis in World War II. He was forty-six years old and well known around the world. Camus was traveling to Paris with friends after spending the New Year holiday on his property in the south of France. It was raining. The car came out at one point on a straight, clear stretch of road. About midway it went off the road and rammed into a tree. Camus was killed. One newspaper at the time reported, “It was a dramatic end for the young writer who was a leader and interpreter of the philosophy of postwar France’s wild, young existentialist set.”

If the existentialist set in France was wild, this is hardly a charge that can be leveled against Camus. A more thoroughly earnest man it would be hard to find anywhere. And yet, his sudden senseless death there on the road lends support to one of the fundamental ideas of the existentialists movement: that life is absurd, senseless, that anything can happen to anyone at any time, without rhyme or reason; life is illogical; the only god is the god of chance; “Time and chance happeneth to all men,” as the preacher said many years ago. And yet, in his works Camus is stating, is demanding, that life has value without having meaning. In so doing he is rebelling against two things: on the one hand, nihilism, that is the belief in nothing; and on the other hand, the Christian concept of contemptus mundi, contempt for the world, which forces one to turn away from the living, present moment and to be concerned about some time in the future. ( Humanist in Canada, Lane)

End of sermon.



Call for Papers: Philosophy and Childhood

13-14 July 2017, University of Salzburg, Austria


Keynote Speakers

S. Matthew Liao  (New York)
Amy Mullin (Toronto)

Adam Swift (Warwick)

While neglected for a long time, the moral and political status of children has aroused considerable attention in the last years. Philosophers are increasingly interested in the challenges children and childhood pose for ethical theories and the normative concepts suitable for grasping the special situation of children. Children’s rights, the well-being of children, the place of children in theories of justice and the value of childhood have been discussed extensively and there is a vivid debate on issues like educational justice and the family as the central institution for childrearing. Still, there are many controversies going on which need further examination, e.g. regarding the vulnerability of children, their agency, the nature of childhood and the implications different phases of childhood have for the normative status of the child, e.g. when considering the autonomy and rights of teenagers. In addition there is the question on what ethical theories can contribute to the evaluation and improvement of dangers children are facing currently, like child poverty, obesity or the economization of childhood.

This conference wants to bring together philosophers and interested scholars from other disciplines working on these and related subjects. It aims to be a forum for the most recent developments in philosophy and childhood. Submissions are welcome from all fields of philosophy where the moral and political status of children is discussed: social and political philosophy, philosophy of law, medical ethics, philosophy of education, applied ethics etc.

The Organizing Committee invites the submission of abstracts for single papers and thematic panels on all topics of philosophy and childhood.

Please submit an abstract of 350 words ready for blind review using the submission form on the conference homepage: www.philosophy-childhood.org.

The deadline for submissions is 28 February 2017, notifications will be sent out approximately three weeks after this deadline. If you run into any troubles with your submission please email the organizers: gunter.graf[a]sbg.ac.at

This conference is organized jointly by the Centre for Ethics and Poverty Research, University of Salzburg, and the Chair of Philosophy V, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) Munich.

This conference is organized as part of the research project “Social Justice and Child Poverty”, funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF): P26480: www.child-poverty.org

Alex Bagattini (Munich)
Monika Betzler (Munich)
Mar Cabezas (Salzburg)
Gunter Graf (Salzburg)
Gottfried Schweiger (Salzburg)
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