faq

Who am I?
Yes, we all ask ourselves that question now and then. I have had a wide variety of occupations, but wouldn’t describe myself as an expert in anything. I’ve lived in quite a few countries (all European I’m afraid), but my current home is in France. I have many interests, but if I had to name the main ones they would have to be:

  • Music, only listening unfortunately. Mostly classical, in the widest possible sense of the word.
  • Literature, especially English and French.
  • Philosophy, especially western, utilitarian and analytic.
  • Walking in the mountains and reading on the beach.

Sorry to be so anonymous. I hope to become less so at some point, but I live in a small community and my current work involves much contact with the public, so after some consideration I’ve decided to first wait and see how this blog develops and what sort of reaction it gets. Not that I intend writing anything that controversial, but I’m regularly surprised by what some people manage to find offensive… So for the moment you can just call me sansCulotte.

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Am I a philosopher?
Well, I’m certainly not a professional philosopher, in the sense that no one has ever paid me to philosophise. Neither do I expect anyone to do so in the foreseeable future (although all offers will receive serious consideration 🙂 ). And neither have I had any formal philosophical training. No, I’m just a self-taught, interested amateur – a well-read peasant, as Mark E. Smith might say.

As a teenager I spent long hours discussing religion and politics around the dinner table, and as a young adult I became interested in eastern philosophy (Buddhism, Hinduism, Transcendental Meditation, I Ching…) and what might be described as its more occidental extensions (G. I. Gurdjieff, C. G. Jung, Aldous Huxley, astrology…). In those days, ‘normal’ western philosophy struck me as dry, abstract, boring, academic and totally irrelevant to ‘real life’. Having always been fascinated by literature, however, I couldn’t escape becoming at least a little familiar with some of the more important western philosophers and their ideas, and when Wikipedia appeared I started to learn ever more about the subject. By the time I got around to reading Sophie’s World I’d already decided that western philosophy generally relates much better to how I view the world these days than does its eastern counterpart.

That was a long time ago, but philosophy is a vast area and I still consider myself very much a beginner. Which, I might add, does not prevent me from having definite preferences and strongly-held opinions – as you will soon discover if you read any of my texts on philosophical subjects…

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Why this blog?
I’ve been writing for many decades now, mainly for my own benefit. If I read a book, see a film or go to a concert then part of the ‘fun’ for me is writing down afterwards what I thought of it. If I’m studying something more serious, I find that writing helps me sort out and clarify my thoughts. I’ve also always believed that if you aren’t capable of explaining something to others, then there’s a very good chance that you don’t really understand it yourself. These comments often expand into a mini-essay (or sometimes an interminable one) on the subject of the book or film, and occasionally digress onto other topics I find interesting. I also find myself writing more and more about current events, politics, philosophy and life in general without any book or film as an excuse. I’ve occasionally re-read something I’d written a year or two previously and found myself thinking that other people might also find it interesting. Hopefully some of you out there should find some of it worth reading…

And some people cannot hold their drink.
They’ve got to tell you what they think.

— Mark E. Smith

Well, I can usually hold my drink (even if one has been known to slip out of my hand towards the end of a long evening), but I readily admit that I frequently find my own opinions sufficiently interesting for me to want to tell the rest of the world all about them. The advantage of my doing it in a blog is that if you find what I say boring, you can easily turn me off – if I was doing it live you might not escape so easily!

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Why the name?
The name of this site was inspired by one of my favourite Ivor Cutler poems, ‘The Path’:

Many feet make one path.
I like to walk on a foot path.
I walk over the grass
and turn to see if I have made a path.
Two feet once only
is not enough.
I return to the foot path
to fill one of the bunch.
I add my feet.
I look back.
What a path we made.

— Ivor Cutler

I very much enjoy walking in the mountains, and when you do that you really come to appreciate paths. They’re usually made just as Ivor says: centuries, or even thousands of years ago, people started walking a certain route, and a path gradually developed. Often people would improve it from time to time, moving some stones here, building a bridge there, until you end up with something very solid and comfortable. Following a path like that, I often feel very conscious of all the people who’ve walked it before me.

I don’t know if Ivor Cutler ever intended it that way, but this poem could also be read as a metaphor for the way countless generations of people have built philosophy, culture or civilisation, each individual adding his own small contribution. The metaphor could be taken much further, with references to each individual having his own path slightly different from anyone else’s, alternative paths leading to the same destination, paths going off in the wrong direction… And then there’s also the question of whether the ‘right’ path is necessarily straight and narrow – and whether the straight and narrow path is necessarily the most interesting one. The possibilities are endless, but I’ll leave all that to your imagination – for the moment at least. After all, it’s just a name!

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How long has this blog been going?
It started in January 2015, even though some posts are dated much earlier. That’s because I frequently post stuff I wrote years ago, and give it the date it was written rather than the date posted. I find the date something was written much more interesting and relevant than the date I happened to publish it on this blog: I sometimes refer to ‘current events’ which are no longer current, or refer back to things I’ve already written. It would feel strange, somehow, to be referring back to something which seemingly comes later!

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Why is “What’s new?” different from “recent posts”?

The “What’s new?” section of the index page gives a list of the items most recently posted, whereas the list of “recent posts” at the bottom of each page shows the most recent posts according to their dates – which is the date written rather than the date posted. In other words, the “recent posts” were definitely posted recently, but there may be other posts, written earlier, which have appeared even more recently on this blog. See also How long has this blog been going?

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Why do some of the page references of quoted text contain decimals?
Just to make it easier to find the quote on the page. For instance, p.99,0 is at the top of page 99, p.99,9 is at the bottom, and p.99,5 is somewhere in the middle. That way you don’t have to scan the whole page to see something in its original context. I don’t think this is a standard system (at least, I don’t recall ever having come across it anywhere), but I’ve always found it very useful.

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Is reading about a book or film here likely to spoil one’s enjoyment?
Many of these texts were written first and foremost for my own benefit: for instance to remind myself of what I thought of a book or film in case I might want to read/see it again in years to come, or was tempted to read/see more by the same author or director. This means that, unlike reviews aimed at a potential audience, they assume that the reader has already read the book or seen the film – so if you haven’t, the text may not make that much sense to you. And in the case of a work of fiction,

— SPOILER WARNING !!! —

it also means that important plot details might well be revealed. I do try to add a warning wherever necessary, but I can’t guarantee that I haven’t missed any. You have been warned!

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