Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Journey to the White House



“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”     ― Michelle Obama, Becoming

Michelle Obama has led an interesting life which she reviews in this memoir covering that life up to the point where she and her husband left the White House in January, 2017. The memoir is divided into three parts describing respectively, her youth, her early life with Barack, and her time as the First Lady of the United States.

I could relate best to the first section for several reasons, in spite of the fact that she grew up in one of the largest cities in the United States. Her world was circumscribed by her family and her neighborhood until high school and even then her life continued to center on close friends and family. She studied playing the piano with her Aunt Robbie and spent free time with girl friends in her south side neighborhood. Even though I was raised in a small town in rural Wisconsin my experience was similar in many ways, studying the piano and spending time with friends and family. Her life changed dramatically when she graduated from high school and entered Princeton University.

Her brother Craig, two years her senior,  had preceded her to Princeton and led the way in a sense; much as he had in their earlier years. He was only two years older than Michelle and they had a close family relationship. Michelle was always very intelligent and excelled in academics, progressing to Harvard Law School upon graduation from Princeton. I found the first section of the memoir the most interesting and while her prose was excellent, reading  the subsequent sections I progressively loss interest in the story of her life.

Her career trajectory was intense as she joined a major law firm in Chicago upon completing her law degree. The memoir excels in providing some of the quotidian details of the life of an exceptional black woman in the last decades of the Twentieth Century. However, after she married Barack and they entered into the political arena the book seemed to become somewhat superficial in its discussion of the events of her life. For those interested in the life of a former First Lady this would be an good choice and a pleasant book to read. If you are interested in the history of the years of the woman who stood by Barack Obama's meteoric political career I would suggest you wait for the work of an objective historian.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Quote for Today

Notre-Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris

"a vast symphony in stone, so to speak; the colossal work of a man and a people, at the same time one and complex, like its sisters the Iliads and the Romanceros; the prodigious result of contributions made from all the resources of an age, where every stone displays in hundreds of ways the workman's imagination disciplined by the artist's genius; a king f of human creation, in a word, as mighty and fruitful as the divine creation whose dual character it seems to have abstracted: variety, eternity."

(from the opening of Book Three: "Notre Dame")

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Philosophy as a Process

Philosophical Investigations 

Philosophical Investigations

“Our investigation is a grammatical one. Such an investigation sheds light on our problem by clearing misunderstandings away. Misunderstandings concerning the use of words, caused, among other things, by certain analogies between the forms of expression in different regions of language.”   ― Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations

Comments, I

Enter into a philosophy where outside of human thought and speech there are no independent, objective points of support. Meaning and necessity are preserved only by the linguistic practices which embody them. This then is a world that seems not unlike the skeptical realms of those from at least Descartes onward that allow for no objective reality independent of one's mind.
For Wittgenstein it is not quite so simple as that, as he continually asks questions and in doing so creates a philosophy of process much more akin to that of Socrates than Descartes, Kant or any other modern - particularly the camp of the logical positivists where he once dwelt.

His questions center on words and language so we find ourselves asking: is language a real thing? Is there any knowledge of things as they are independent of our language? How can we look at knowing as understanding the nature of things? In this sense there are things (objects) in the world and we can develop an understanding of their nature. This will not necessarily be certain knowledge, but knowledge of a sort nonetheless. "For them after all it is not nonsense" to say that "there are physical objects." (37)

It would seem that statements are only meaningful if they ask questions - Wittgenstein would ask - but there are other points of view out there.