Monday, February 25, 2008

I am, therefore I think

In his Meditations, Descartes defended the thesis “Cogito ergo sum” ,”I think, therefore I am”, and reasoned that mind and matter are two different things. However, isn’t it the wrong order, I think, therefore I am? For if I wouldn’t be, I couldn’t think, for a non existing thinking being is impossible. Thinking is only possible for me if I exist and if this existing of me has developed that way that the existing being that I am can think. Therefore, my existing is a precondition for my thinking. For this reason it is not correct to say “Cogito ergo sum”, but rather one should say “Sum ergo cogito”, “I am, therefore I think”. But then it is not so that there is a thinking that happens to be my thinking, but my thinking is a consequence of my being as it happens to have developed. And this has consequences for my thinking, for my thinking cannot be separate of my being, as Descartes reasoned, but it is an inextricable part of my being, whatever that may involve.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A passport to the world

When people ask me what the best way for learning a language is, I always say: live in a country where the language is spoken. However, for most people that is not possible. They can spend their holidays there at most. Then my answer is: practice the language you want to learn, if so that you do not have the feeling that you are studying, but that using it has become a part of your life. And so it is for me. I learn languages, because it is better to read a book in the original language. I learn them by watching foreign TV channels for the news, since I want to know what is happening from the first hand, but also since it is an interesting way to learn about a country. I learn them by writing letters and e-mails to people in others countries. I learn them, because I use them on holiday abroad. It is true, I learn them, because I like them and because I am interested in languages. But the most positive of all this is that now I do not know only a good couple of languages, but that every day new worlds are opened to me. Languages give me a direct entrance to areas that were once closed to me because they are means of communication, but in addition they give me new experiences because they are reflexions of other ways of life: Learning languages has given me a passport to new cultural worlds. And that’s the most important what language learning means to me.

Monday, February 11, 2008

About a saying of Bart de Ligt

Karl Marx called violence the midwife of a new social order. In a certain sense this is not incorrect. I mean, where violence is used, change takes place, and where much violence is used big chances take place in a society. If the changes are big enough, we call it a revolution. But is it that what Marx meant to express? I think that Marx meant something different. He wanted to say that violence is the first step, or at least a first step we have to take on our road to a better society. But if we look around us, where do we find a better society that came about by a violent revolution? Most or at least the most important so-called revolutions that came about by violence did not end in a better society but in repression and a Thermidor. On the other hand, other social changes, if not many social changes, in other societies took place in a nonviolent way. I do not want to say that such changes have led to an ideal society. Far from that. As long as man is not an ideal being with an ideal character, society cannot be ideal. But many societies became better by relying on nonviolent means for opposing suppression, violence and the attack on democratic institutions. The Philippines, Serbia, Georgia are only a few examples of countries where recently nonviolent change had positive results. Rather than supporting the idea that violence is the midwife of a new society, these social changes endorse the idea of that Dutch peace activist and peace researcher Bart de Ligt (1883-1938) expressed when he said “The more violence, the less revolution”. Isn’t it just that, the violence, what made that so many so-called revolutions failed in the end?

Monday, February 04, 2008


Read in a newspaper report: "The explosive growth of scientific literature on the Internet makes plagiarizing and duplicating one’s own work (self-plagiarism) easier and easier".
I do not understand this sentence, for what is self-plagiarism? It sounds as if it is possible to steal one’s own thoughts. Is it so that I have to give account for a thought that I once had and that I use again, for the simple reason that I repeat it? Not for the fact that it is a thought that can cause damage to other people, that is disgusting, or that nobody understands, or something like that. No, this quotation suggests that I have to give account of a thought of my own for the simple fact that it has once been expressed or written down, independent of the fact that it is I myself who has expressed or written it. What a stupid idea. It looks as if I am not allowed to repeat myself without consent and that there is an independent body that can prescribe what I am allowed to say twice (for example the publisher of a journal or book where I had written down my thought for the first time?). Isn’t that the end of freedom? Isn’t the word self-plagiarism a contradiction in terms?