Friday 17 February, 2023

Dead tree + Live wind farm

North Norfolk. Huge offshore wind farm in the distance.

Quote of the Day

”My idea of long-term planning is lunch.”

  • Frank Ogden

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Bob Marley | One Love



Long Read of the Day

What if my lessons in existentialism were in bad faith?

Lovely reflective — and reflexive — essay by Robert Zaretsky.

‘Let us consider this waiter in the café. His movement is quick and forward, a little too precise, a little too rapid.’ I read these lines – perhaps with a diction a bit too deliberate – and look up from my copy of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness (1943) at a room-full of students lining both sides of a long conference table. ‘He comes toward the patrons with a step a little too quick. He bends forward a little too eagerly; his voice, his eyes express an interest a little too solicitous for the order of the customer.’ Am I reciting this a little too emphatically? One student is doodling in a notebook, others scribble in theirs. A few of them look at me while I look around at them. Just as I am mostly engaged in displaying my engagement, I wonder if the students are also busy being engaged.

Mais oui, it’s another mauvaise foi Monday. Bad faith abounds not just at the Parisian café where Sartre watches the waiter, but also in the seminar room in Houston where I watch myself teaching my class on existentialism. Though I have been a professor for more than 30 years, I began teaching this course only recently: unlike with earlier courses, where I feared simply phoning them in, I now swung to the fear that I was being a phony. That I was, like Sartre’s waiter, playing a game. ‘We need not watch long before we can explain it: he is playing at being a waiter in a café. There is nothing there to surprise us.’ Yet I am surprised – in a way that makes me question not just my place, but existentialism’s place in the room. As Sartre might say: is my course, myself? Am I foolish in thinking I can profess a philosophy that requires personal authenticity and political engagement?

I really liked this essay, not least because when my late wife Carol and I were undergraduates we were both passionate admirers of Sartre and his famous collaborator Simone de Beauvoir. (In fact Carol went on to do a Masters thesis on Beauvoir’s autobiography, and even interviewed her in Paris.) Of course, given the later revelations of how manipulative those two were, I feel rather differently about them now. But if you can’t be naive when you’re young and impressionable, when can you be? And Beauvoir’s The Second Sex was one of the most important books of the 20th century.

Books, etc.

I’m reading Aaron Perzanowski’s terrific book with interest, not just because it’s on a topic that is really important, but also because he’s speaking at an event I’m running in the Cambridge Festival on March 28. If you’re going to be in town that evening, why not come? It’s in Wolfson College and may be over-subscribed — so register early if you’re hoping to be there.

My commonplace booklet

Welsh road building projects stopped after failing climate review

Wow! Is this a world first?

From The Guardian

Dozens of road building projects across Wales have been halted or amended as part of a “groundbreaking” policy that reassessed more than 50 schemes against a series of tough tests on their impact on the climate emergency.

Only 15 of the projects reviewed by an expert roads review panel will go ahead in their original form, with others scaled back, postponed or in some cases shelved.

The scrapped projects include a third bridge across the Menai Strait which separates the island of Anglesey from the Welsh mainland.

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