Inkblots, Ghosts, John Locke, Humanism, Sartre, Fracking

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

Bear, Bat, Or Tiny King?

Deborah Friedell | LRB | 25th October 2017

A critical history of the Rorschach inkblot test. Hermann Rorschach developed the ten images by testing them on “a few hundred” patients and staff in a Swiss sanatorium in 1917-18, though his notes on that process are lost to history. “Usually an assessment took twenty to thirty minutes. Depressed patients took longer than manics, although they gave fewer responses, and schizophrenics were the fastest. Failure to answer was, very likely, a sign of schizophrenia or feeble-mindedness” (3,155 words)

Ghosts Of The Tsunami

Richard Lloyd Parry | Longreads | 24th October 2017

Stories told by priests and neighbours of hauntings and possessions in the wake of the 2011 Japanese tsunami. “A taxi in the city of Sendai picked up a sad-faced man who asked to be taken to an address that no longer existed. Halfway through the journey, the driver looked into his mirror to see that the rear seat was empty. He drove on anyway, stopped in front of the foundations of the destroyed house, and politely opened the door to allow the invisible passenger out at his former home” (5,200 words)

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

Robert McCrum | Guardian | 23rd October 2017

John Locke’s “celebrated essay”, published in 1689, is an “examination of the nature of the human mind, and its powers of understanding, expressed in brilliant, lapidary prose”. Bertrand Russell said that Locke “made a bigger difference to the intellectual climate of mankind than anyone since Aristotle”. And, in Russell’s view, Locke was the more useful thinker. “No one ever had Common Sense before John Locke”. Locke taught us to think for ourselves, to weigh evidence empirically (716 words)

What Are We Doing Here?

Marilynne Robinson | New York Review Of Books | 19th October 2017

What was it like to be a scholar in the Renaissance or the Enlightenment, and what can we learn from their example now? “I think about what it would have been like to read by the light of an oil lamp, to write with a goose quill. I assumed that the rigors and austerities of their early training had made their discomforts too familiar to be noticed. Now increasingly I think they were held to their work by a degree of fascination, of sober delight, that we can no longer imagine” (5,400 words)

Sartre And The Demands Of Freedom

Gary Cox | TLS | 24th October 2017

Introduction to Jean-Paul Sartre’s life and work. Sartre lived in exciting times, and he was something of a self-publicist, but his learning was prodigious and his thinking was robust. “At the heart of Sartre’s philosophy are four related phenomena: consciousness, freedom, bad faith and authenticity”. Of which the greatest is authenticity: “Authenticity is taking responsibility for what we do in every situation, affirming all our choices and therefore all our past without regret” (1,760 words)

It Takes A Boom

Blaire Briody | Proximity | 24th October 2017

Conversation with Cindy Marchello, the only woman on a fracking crew in Trenton, North Dakota. “All men and no families live here. A few women that are the housekeepers do live here. I don’t venture out. I don’t make a lot of local friends. I don’t especially like the cleaning ladies. A couple of them are quite the bar party girls. I’m not. I can’t afford to be. Because what’s she going to do? She’s going to get up and vacuum in the morning. I’m going to go drive a 100,000-pound truck” (5,700 words)

Video of the day Why You Should Read Ulysses

What to expect:

Engaging introduction to James Joyce’s great novel, arguing that the pleasures of reading it outweigh the pains (5’57”)

Thought for the day

People can’t help what they feel. It’s what they do that counts
Siri Hustvedt

Podcast of the day The Beginnings Of Belief | BBC

Neil MacGregor, former Director of the British Museum, talks about the origins of religious belief

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