Sunday, June 12, 2005



"Exclaim to our people about a passer-by 'Oh, what a learned man!' and about another 'Oh, what a good man!' They will not fail to turn their eyes and their respect toward the first. There should be a third exclamation: 'Oh, what blockheads!'"

-- Montaigne, "Of Pedantry," trans. Donald M. Frame

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"The lesson to be drawn from such contradictions is that modern concepts of race, nation, language, and geography are irrelevant to the biblical text. The classical terms Asia, Africa, and Europe are also absent, and more subtly, the geographical valence and content that later generations have imposed on these terms are also alien to the geographical view of biblical writers and redactors. Given the arbitrary quality of geography, this is hardly surprising. After all, Europe is little more than a pimple on the landmass of Asia. Unconvincingly divided as it is from Asia by the modest Ural mountain range, it has considerably less right to a separate continental existence than does India, which European geographers have reduced to a subcontinent. Cultural hegemony along with objective physicality plays a role in defining geography."

-- Benjamin Braude, "The Sons of Noah and the Construction of Ethnic and Geographical Identities in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods," William and Mary Quarterly 54, no. 1 (January 1997), p. 109.

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"Honest and earnest criticism from those whose interests are most nearly touched,--criticism of writers by readers, of government by those governed, of leaders by the led,--this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern society."

-- W. E. B. DuBois, "Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others," from Souls of Black Folk

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"At the end of a war, when peace is concluded, it would not be inappropriate for a people to appoint a day of atonement after the festival of thanksgiving. Heaven would be invoked in the name of the state to forgive the human race for the great sin of which it continues to be guilty, since it will not accommodate itself to a lawful constitution in international relations. Proud of its independence, each state prefer to employ the barbarous expedient of war, although war cannot produce the desired decision on the rights of particular states. The thanksgivings for individual victories during a war, the hymns which are sung (in the style of the Israelites) to the Lord of Hosts, contrast no less markedly with the moral conception of a father of mankind. For besides displaying indifference to the way in which nations pursue their mutual rights (deplorable though it is), they actually rejoice at having annihilated numerous human beings or their happiness."

-- Immanuel Kant, from a footnote in Perpetual Peace, trans. H. B. Nisbet

Collective Improvisation:

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