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This Week in Humanism 2018–01–28


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/01/28

“You can judge a book by its cover — at least in this case. Rhodri Lewis’ sombre dust jacket reproduces some of the more gory sections of A Hunting Scene, painted by Piero di Cosimo about a century before the first performances of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Lewis describes the image: “an all but feral community of appetitive violence, with human beings competing against one another and the animals on whom they preyed”. Hamlet and the Vision of Darkness reads Shakespeare’s tragedy as a defiant rejection of the humanist aspirations of the early moderns: “while humanist educators stuck to their pious ideology in championing the light of self-knowledge, for the Shakespeare of Hamlet, humankind is bound in ignorance of itself”.

Lewis’ critical method is thorough and systematic. He cites chapter and verse of the various “auctoritees”, authors of humanistic treatises on history, poetics, philosophy and hunting. With diligence and patience, he traces these back to their classical sources. Then he shows how poorly Hamlet acts upon, articulates or personifies their principles. At points, this amounts to little more than character assassination: “Hamlet emerges as a thinker of unrelenting superficiality, confusion, and pious self-deceit” or “the thoughts to which he gives voice are the ill-arranged and ill-digested harvest of his bookish education”. Occasionally, the attacks are cheap shots: “Prince Hamlet is the inhabitant of Elsinore most thoroughly mired in bullshit” or, in a throwaway description of the Prince’s “If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to come it will be now…” speech, Lewis remarks that he utters “pseudo-profundities worthy of Yoda”.”


“Karkaria: You are quite the Renaissance man. The importance of the humanities recurs in all three of your ‘lay’ books, including the imminent Tabiyat — Medicine and Healing in India and Other Essays (OUP).

Dr Udwadia: I can’t emphasise this enough. A study of the humanities gives you a wider perspective. After all, we exist in the world, the environment interacts with us, isn’t it? And if you want to know exactly how a human being works, you will be much better off if you had a good idea of the humanities. Read poetry, literature, and you get a good idea of what suffering is. If you can appreciate your patient’s suffering, your response to his disease is much better.

As for history, doctors should at least know that of their own profession. All of us stand on the shoulders of discoveries of past greats, who had no access to the modern technology that has swept over us today. This also gives us another essential quality, humility.

Oh absolutely. I consider it the most important of the arts. Music has unquestionably shown that it helps the healing process. Even in the World Wars, soldiers convalesced better when they listened to music. Now it is being scientifically understood how it acts on certain parts of the brain, which perhaps control the immune response of the body to disease.

Personally, it gives me a feeling of relief, of satisfaction, and ennobles the spirit. Great music is a great blessing. I’m passionately fond of it.”


“Ursula K. Le Guin, who beginning in the 1960s upended the male-dominated genres of fantasy and science fiction, crafting novels that grappled with issues of gender inequality, racism and environmental destruction — while featuring magical or extraterrestrial characters whom she described as “real people” nonetheless — died Jan. 22 at her home in Portland. She was 88.

Her son, Theo Downes-Le Guin, said the cause was not immediately known.

While Le Guin occasionally ventured into realistic fiction, she aimed to avoid the standard fare of contemporary literature, books that she once derided as “fiction about dysfunctional urban middle-class people written in the present tense.”

Earlier this month, the New Zealand-based private spaceflight company Rocket Lab successfully delivered its first orbital payload. Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket released, along with three commercial satellites, an art installation-as-satellite called the Humanity Star.

Instead, she populated her novels with richly imagined worlds that drew less from recent science fiction than from ancient mythology or Taoism, the Eastern philosophy that emphasizes acceptance and change. Le Guin once translated “Tao Te Ching,” publishing her take on the Taoist classic amid novels, stories and books of essays and poetry that made her one of the most beloved writers in American literature.””


“Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that the solution to all problems in the world like terrorism and Naxalism lies in Adi Shankaracharya’s Ekatmavad. The path to world peace is not in war but in Adi Shankar’s Adwait Darshan.

He said that the Adi Shankar Cultural Unity Trust will be established in Omkareshwar to propagate Adwait Darshan. Through this the work of moral, social, cultural and spiritual renaissance will be undertaken.

CM Chouhan was addressing the Ekatm festival organized on the completion of Ekatm Yatra at Adi Shankaracharya’s dikshasthal Omkareshwar. On this occasion, a video message of Bharatiya Janata Party National President Amit Shah was also shown. Yatra began from four places.”


“The works of world-renowned mediaeval artist and craftsman, Master Pavol of Levoča, are being exhibited at the Bratislava Castle to mark the 500thanniversary of the completion of his biggest and most famous work, the main altar of St James’ Church in Levoča. As it is not possible to bring the whole monumental alter to the Slovak capital, other works have been moved there. Altogether 27 parishes as well as several museums, galleries and secular archives contributed to the exhibition.

The idea to present Master Pavol outside his hometown came during the presentation of his mastery in Rome several years ago, head of the Slovak National Museum (SNM, which administers the exhibition halls at the Bratislava Castle) Branislav Pánis noted.”



In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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