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Free Will and Determinism

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  The Choice is clear Faced with a choice between free will and determinism, the choice has always been clear.  Neither our legal system nor our morality could exist without free will.  No-one could be accused of a crime or a sin, unless we accept that they had free will, that they had a choice.  In recent eras, the conviction that determinism is wrong has been reinforced by expressions like "biological determinism" and "social determinism."   Biological determinism "Biological determinism" is widely recognized as the fallacious belief which claims that the limitations and diminished social status of women are determined by their biology, not by patriarchal societies and cultures.  In fact, there is a schism inside feminism with French feminists recognizing some role for biology and American feminists denying biology. Social Determinism "Social determinism" allows the idea that members of the upper classes of society are in fact superior. Some 19

The Truth about Money: Money Good; Money Bad

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What is money? Anything can be used as money:  paper, tokens, clay tablets, seashells, tree bark, pixels on a computer screen, strokes on a ledger somewhere, even people.  Historically, not just slaves and cumal were used as money.  The Bible tells us a man can beat his servant because " he is his money " (Exodus 21:20-22).  As Jacob Goldstein reiterates throughout Money:  The True Story of a Made-up Thing :    "money is money because we believe it’s money." However, some things become like money (a soft way of saying they become money) even when people doubt, question or just don't notice.  Silver, data, Modigliani nudes , and, most importantly, "commercial paper" have all become forms of money despite doubts, questions and ignorance.                              In 2008, the day after the Lehman bankruptcy, this Modigliani                              sold for $150 million (USD). Someone was shifting                              currency from the st

The Politics of Adjectives

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"If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, what is baby oil made from? "                                                                                  anonymous "The Great Canadian . . . . whatever" Have you ever noticed how many Canadian businesses and organizations brand themselves as "The Great Canadian . . ." something or other?  Ever wonder why?  In a brief article in the Catholic magazine Commonweal in 1929, Harvard Professor of Literature, Douglas Bush, asked the question "Is There a Canadian Literature?"  His answer was that in order for a Canadian literature to exist it must produce evidence of greatness, a great novel or poem or play--something great enough to be included in the established canon of great literature.  The sardonic response has been that in order for anything to be "Canadian" it must also be "great"; ergo, "The Great Canadian Bagel," "The G

Ideology

  ideology  (noun) 1. the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group. 2. such a body of doctrine, myth, etc., with reference to some political and social plan, as that of fascism, along with the devices for putting it into operation. 3. in philosophy, the study of the nature and origin of ideas.a system that derives ideas exclusively from sensation. 4. theorizing of a visionary or impractical nature. ( Random House Unabridged Dictionary )   In Ideology: An Introduction , Terry Eagleton describes ideology as follows:    A dominant power may legitimate itself promoting beliefs and values congenial to it; naturalizing and universalizing such beliefs so as to render them self-evident and apparently inevitable; denigrating ideas which might challenge it; excluding rival forms of thought, perhaps by some unspoken but systematic logic; and obscuring social reality in ways convenient

Intertextuality

  intertextuality (noun) a term coined by Julia Kristeva to designate the various relationships that a given text may have with other texts. These intertextual relationships include anagram, allusion, adaptation, translation, parody, pastiche, imitation and other kinds of transformation. In the literary theories of structuralism and post-structuralism, texts are seen to refer to other texts (or to themselves as texts) rather than to external reality. The term intertext has been used variously for a text drawing on other texts, for a text thus drawn upon, and for the relationship between both. ( Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms ) In Intertextuality , Graham Allen describes "intertextuality" in the opening of the book this way: The idea that when we read a work of literature we are seeking to find a meaning which lies inside that work seems completely commonsensical. Literary texts possess meaning; readers extract that meaning from them. We call the process

What is Comparative Literature?

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From English to comparative literature Equipped with a collection of degrees in English language and literature, for two decades, I taught, researched and published in a field called "comparative literature."  As near as I can judge, the discipline got its English name in the early 20th century from a faulty translation of the French expression " littérature comparée ."  The literature which comparativists study isn't comparative in any meaningful sense.   It would make some sense to call the subject "compared literatures" (a literal translation of " littératures comparées ") or, even more obviously and aptly, "comparative studies of literature." However, we specialists learned to succumb and accept the terminology that got us tenure without a whimper until some first-year undergraduate asked us "what exactly does 'comparative literature' mean?" Then we mumbled and grumbled about students who hadn't done enough

What Is "Romantic Irony"?

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Schlegel coined the term These days, the concept of "romantic irony" is particularly difficult to grasp for a number of reasons.  In the first place, the phrase was coined by Friedrich Schlegel, the German romanticist, who was vague and aphoristic in defining the concept. The Meaning of "romantic" Additionally, what Schlegel meant by "romantic" is a subject of debate.  According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy : What Schlegel meant by the term “romantic” and its apparent cognate "Roman" (usually translated as “novel,” but having among the Romantics a much wider sense) has long been disputed. [ . . .], Schlegel saw the historical origins of “the romantic” in the wide mixture of forms and genres that characterized medieval literature and took it as the point of departure for a genre-transcending notion that allows even Shakespeare's plays or Dante's Commedia to be Romane . Romantic Irony From a present-day perspective, "