The definition of «arete» by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics

Τετάρτη, 18 Φεβρουαρίου, 2015

Eduardo Chillida, Competition - Harmony

Eduardo Chillida, Competition – Harmony

Introduction

We often talk about «arete«, or «virtue«, although the latin-based word is not coveying the full meaning. As it happens in these cases, we all use the same word, but each one has potentially a different understanding or interpretation of it.

Having just finished reading Plato’s «Meno», I was reminded of the definition of «arete» by Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics, and its interprpetation by the French-Greek philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis.

There are at least three major issues to address.

First of all, whereas Plato in Menon is so keen to arrive at a definition of virtue, it appears as if this is a strictly theoretical exercise. Aristotle, on the other hand, claims that the issue is «how to act».

Then we have the question of whether virtue is knowledge or a habit, whether it can be attained and acquired by rationality or by perception.

Finally, there is the question of the context of virtue.

I will proceed to quote from the text in the Greek original of the Nicomachean Ethics, then give the translation in modern Greek, and then provide a translation and/or interpretation in English. For the modern Greek translation I will use the translations available in the «Gate of the Greek Language» (reference 3), and on some occasions my translation. The «standard» english translation I will use is by William David Ross (reference 1).

Eduardo Chillida, Homenaje a Picasso

Eduardo Chillida, Homenaje a Picasso

Why define «arete»?

Ἐπεὶ οὖν ἡ παροῦσα πραγματεία οὐ θεωρίας ἕνεκά ἐστιν ὥσπερ αἱ ἄλλαι (οὐ γὰρ ἵνα εἰδῶμεν τί ἐστιν ἡ ἀρετὴ σκεπτόμεθα, ἀλλ᾽ ἵν᾽ ἀγαθοὶ γενώμεθα, ἐπεὶ οὐδὲν ἂν ἦν ὄφελος αὐτῆς), ἀναγκαῖον ἐπισκέψασθαι τὰ περὶ τὰς (30) πράξεις, πῶς πρακτέον αὐτάς· αὗται γάρ εἰσι κύριαι καὶ τοῦ ποιὰς γενέσθαι τὰς ἕξεις, καθάπερ εἰρήκαμεν. (1103b, 25-30)

Επειδή λοιπόν η παρούσα φιλοσοφική μας ενασχόληση δεν έχει ως στόχο της, όπως οι άλλες, τη θεωρητική γνώση (η έρευνά μας δηλαδή δεν γίνεται για να μάθουμε τι είναι η αρετή, αλλά για να γίνουμε ενάρετοι ― αλλιώς δεν θα είχε κανένα νόημα), είναι ανάγκη να εξετάσουμε το θέμα «πράξεις», με το νόημα (30) «πώς πρέπει να τις πράττουμε» ― αυτό, φυσικά, επειδή από αυτές εξαρτάται και το τι θα είναι τελικά οι έξεις μας, όπως το έχουμε ήδη πει. (3, μετάφραση Δ. Λυπουρλής).

Since, then, the present inquiry does not aim at theoretical knowledge like the others (for we are inquiring not in order to know what virtue is, but in order to become good, since otherwise our inquiry would have been of no use), we must examine the nature of actions, namely how we ought to do them; for these determine also the nature of the states of character that are produced, as we have said. (1)

My comment: Aristotle makes it quite clear from the beginning that his inquiry aims at determing how to act. His focus is not theoretical knowledge, but real life and what we do in it.

Eduardo Chillida, Barcelona i

Eduardo Chillida, Barcelona i

Definition of (moral) «arete» 

«…ἀρετὴν δὲ λέγομεν ἀνθρωπίνην οὐ τὴν τοῦ σώματος ἀλλὰ τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς· καὶ τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν δὲ ψυχῆς ἐνέργειαν λέγομεν.» (1102a, 15-20)

Όταν αναφερόμαστε στην ανθρώπινη αρετή, εννοούμε την αρετή της ψυχής, και όχι του σώματος. Και η ευτυχία εξάλλου είναι ενεργούμενο της ψυχής.

By human virtue we mean not that of the body but that of the soul; and happiness also we call an activity of soul. (1)

Διορίζεται δὲ καὶ ἡ ἀρετὴ κατὰ τὴν διαφορὰν ταύτην· λέγομεν γὰρ αὐτῶν τὰς (5) μὲν διανοητικὰς τὰς δὲ ἠθικάς, σοφίαν μὲν καὶ σύνεσιν καὶ φρόνησιν διανοητικάς, ἐλευθεριότητα δὲ καὶ σωφροσύνην ἠθικάς. (1103a, 3-7)

Και στην αρετή διακρίνουμε δύο είδη: διανοητική αρετή, όπως είναι η σοφία και η σύνεση, και ηθική όπως είναι η γενναιοδωρία και η σωφροσύνη.

Virtue too is distinguished into kinds in accordance with this difference; for we say that some of the virtues are intellectual and others moral, philosophic wisdom and understanding and practical wisdom being intellectual, liberality and temperance moral. (1)

«Διττῆς δὴ τῆς ἀρετῆς οὔσης, τῆς μὲν διανοητικῆς τῆς (15) δὲ ἠθικῆς, ἡ μὲν διανοητικὴ τὸ πλεῖον ἐκ διδασκαλίας ἔχει καὶ τὴν γένεσιν καὶ τὴν αὔξησιν, διόπερ ἐμπειρίας δεῖται καὶ χρόνου, ἡ δ᾽ ἠθικὴ ἐξ ἔθους περιγίνεται, ὅθεν καὶ τοὔνομα ἔσχηκε μικρὸν παρεκκλῖνον ἀπὸ τοῦ ἔθους. ἐξ οὗ καὶ δῆλον ὅτι οὐδεμία τῶν ἠθικῶν ἀρετῶν φύσει ἡμῖν ἐγγίνεται·» (1103a, 14-19)

Δύο είναι, όπως είδαμε, τα είδη της αρετής, η διανοητική και η ηθική. (15) Η διανοητική αρετή χρωστάει και τη γένεση και την αύξησή της κατά κύριο λόγο στη διδασκαλία (γιαυτό και εκείνο που χρειάζεται γι’ αυτήν είναι η πείρα και ο χρόνος), ενώ η ηθική αρετή είναι αποτέλεσμα του έθους (και το ίδιο της το όνομα, άλλωστε, μικρή μόνο διαφορά παρουσιάζει από τη λέξη έθος). Αυτό ακριβώς κάνει φανερό ότι καμιά ηθική αρετή δεν υπάρχει μέσα μας εκ φύσεως. (3, μετάφραση Δ. Λυπουρλής).

Virtue, then, being of two kinds, intellectual and moral, intellectual virtue in the main owes both its birth and its growth to teaching (for which reason it requires experience and time), while moral virtue comes about as a result of habit, whence also its name (ethike) is one that is formed by a slight variation from the word ethos (habit). From this it is also plain that none of the moral virtues arises in us by nature; (1)

Eduardo Chillida, Zabaldu

Eduardo Chillida, Zabaldu

Definition and interpretation by C Castoriadis

«Ἔστιν ἄρα ἡ ἀρετὴ ἕξις προαιρετική, ἐν μεσότητι οὖσα τῇ πρὸς ἡμᾶς, ὡρισμένῃ λόγῳ καὶ ᾧ ἂν ὁ φρόνιμος ὁρίσειεν». (1107a, 1-5)

An almost literal translation of this definition in English would read like this:

«Virtue, then, is a habit or trained faculty of choice, the characteristic of which lies in moderation or observance of the mean relative to the persons concerned, as determined by reason, i.e. by the reason by which the prudent man would determine it.»

Ross translates it as follows: «Virtue, then, is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean, i.e. the mean relative to us, this being determined by a rational principle, and by that principle by which the man of practical wisdom would determine it.» (1)

The French-Greek philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis in one of his seminars (2) has provided a lucid interpretation of Aristotle’s definition, and I would like to share it as I consider it brilliant and illuminating.

Eduardo Chillida, Homenaje a Aime Maeght

Eduardo Chillida, Homenaje a Aime Maeght

«Ἔστιν ἄρα ἡ ἀρετὴ ἕξις προαιρετική»

Είναι λοιπόν η αρετή μια συνήθεια απόκτημα ελεύθερης επιλογής

Interpretation: Arete is an acquired inclination, which we do not have since birth and we follow and exercise by choice. Castoriadis discusses the possible use of the word «habitus», but opts for inclination instead, to emphasize the active element of the word, as opposed to the rather passive nature of «habitus».Not only arete is an inclination we acquire during life, but we acquire it by choice, not because we were forced to by dire circumstances. Arete is exercised by choice, and cannot be forced.

Eduardo Chillida, Aundi II

Eduardo Chillida, Aundi II

«ἐν μεσότητι οὖσα τῇ πρὸς ἡμᾶς»

που βρίσκεται στο ενδιάμεσο των άκρων που καθορίζουμε εμείς οι ίδιοι

Interpretation: Arete lies in the middle ground between extremes, in a context defined by our condition. The middle ground is not necessarily an arithmetic mean or median, and the extremes are not universal or all encompassing, but are defined in the context of «our» condition, and have no meaning without it. The community enters the definition with the «our», and shatters the strictly individual focus usually attached to arete.

«ὡρισμένῃ λόγῳ καὶ ᾧ ἂν ὁ φρόνιμος ὁρίσειεν».

και προσδιορίζεται από τη λογική που καθορίζει ο φρόνιμος άνθρωπος

Interpetation: Arete is determined by impersonal reason and defined by the man of prudence, which is the ability to reason well within the real conditions of life.

Eduardo Chillida, Zedatu IV

Eduardo Chillida, Zedatu IV

Navigating the middle position

Being in the middle ground, between two extremes, is not an easy task. And attaining the proper position is a matter of perception rather than of reason.

«Τριῶν δὴ διαθέσεων οὐσῶν, δύο μὲν κακιῶν, τῆς μὲν καθ᾽ ὑπερβολὴν τῆς δὲ κατ᾽ ἔλλειψιν, μιᾶς δ᾽ ἀρετῆς τῆς μεσότητος, πᾶσαι πάσαις ἀντίκεινταί πως·» (1108b, 15-20)

There are three kinds of disposition, then, two of them vices, involving excess and deficiency respectively, and one a virtue, viz. the mean, and all are in a sense opposed to all; (1)

«(20) Ὅτι μὲν οὖν ἐστὶν ἡ ἀρετὴ ἡ ἠθικὴ μεσότης, καὶ πῶς, καὶ ὅτι μεσότης δύο κακιῶν, τῆς μὲν καθ᾽ ὑπερβολὴν τῆς δὲ κατ᾽ ἔλλειψιν, καὶ ὅτι τοιαύτη ἐστὶ διὰ τὸ στοχαστικὴ τοῦ μέσου εἶναι τοῦ ἐν τοῖς πάθεσι καὶ ἐν ταῖς πράξεσιν, ἱκανῶς εἴρηται. διὸ καὶ ἔργον ἐστὶ σπουδαῖον εἶναι.» (1109a, 20-25)

That moral virtue is a mean, then, and in what sense it is so, and that it is a mean between two vices, the one involving excess, the other deficiency, and that it is such because its character is to aim at what is intermediate in passions and in actions, has been sufficiently stated. Hence also it is no easy task to be good. (1)

«ἀλλ᾽ ὁ μὲν μικρὸν τοῦ εὖ παρεκβαίνων οὐ ψέγεται, οὔτ᾽ ἐπὶ τὸ μᾶλλον οὔτ᾽ ἐπὶ τὸ (20) ἧττον, ὁ δὲ πλέον· οὗτος γὰρ οὐ λανθάνει. ὁ δὲ μέχρι τίνος καὶ ἐπὶ πόσον ψεκτὸς οὐ ῥᾴδιον τῷ λόγῳ ἀφορίσαι· οὐδὲ γὰρ ἄλλο οὐδὲν τῶν αἰσθητῶν· τὰ δὲ τοιαῦτα ἐν τοῖς καθ᾽ ἕκαστα, καὶ ἐν τῇ αἰσθήσει ἡ κρίσις.» (1109b, 20-25)

The man, however, who deviates little from goodness is not blamed, whether he do so in the direction of the more or of the less, but only the man who deviates more widely; for he does not fail to be noticed. But up to what point and to what extent a man must deviate before he becomes blameworthy it is not easy to determine by reasoning, any more than anything else that is perceived by the senses; such things depend on particular facts, and the decision rests with perception. (1)

References

(1) Αριστοτέλους, Ηθικά Νικομάχεια. [ed. J. Bywater, Aristotle’s Ethica Nicomachea. Oxford, 1894] translated by William David Ross. I own the «Oxford World’s Classics» 2009 printed edition.

(2) Κορνήλιος Καστοριάδης, Η Ελληνική Ιδιαιτερότητα, Τόμος Γ”, Θουκυδίδης, η ισχύς και το δίκαιο. Εκδόσεις Κριτική, Αθήνα 2011. Please note that the Castoriadis book is in Greek, and the translation into English is mine. In addition, I have not used Castoriadis’ statements verbatim, but with a sense of poetic license.

(3) Πύλη. Αρχαία Ελληνική Γλώσσα και Γραμματεία. Αριστοτέλους, Ηθικά Νικομάχεια

I am a fool to want you

Παρασκευή, 13 Φεβρουαρίου, 2015

Edvard Munch, Separation

Edvard Munch, Separation

«I’m A Fool To Want You»

I’m a fool to want you
I’m a fool to want you
To want a love that can’t be true
A love that’s there for others too
I’m a fool to hold you
Such a fool to hold you
To seek a kiss, not mine alone
To share a kiss that devil has known
Time and time again I said I’d leave you
Time and time again I went away
But then would come the time when I would need you
And once again these words I’ll have to say
Take me back, I love you
Pity me, I need you
I know it’s wrong,it must be wrong
But right or wrong, I can’t get along without you
I am a fool to want you - Frank Sinatra - Columbia 78 (1951)

I am a fool to want you – Frank Sinatra – Columbia 78 (1951)

«I’m a Fool to Want You» is a 1951 song composed by Frank Sinatra, Jack Wolf, and Joel Herron.

It is one of my all time favourites. Desperate, frail, exhausted, dispirited, wounded but still alive, surrendered to a gruesome passion, the lover sings almost like in a confession that makes one wish to be destroyed by an impossible love, to be a fool, rather than not experience this love at all. I do not know. I never had this experience, but I always learn. I heard the song for the first time with a friend who at the time was in love with a man who later almost destroyed her. They were both married with other spouses at the time. Naturally, the performer was Billie Holiday.

Frank Sinatra with Ava Gardner in 1951

Frank Sinatra with Ava Gardner in 1951

Today I will start from the very beginning, 1951, Frank Sinatra, and gradually move forward to other performers and interpretations.

The song was written in early 1951 during a dark and desperate period in Sinatra’s soap opera-like relationship with actress Ava Gardner (“The Last Goddess” was “the” love of his life). So great was Sinatra’s grief and deep his despair over losing her that her attempted to end his own life on two separate occasions.

Frank Sinatra first recorded the song with the Ray Charles Singers on March 27, 1951 in an arrangement by Axel Stordahl in New York.

He was 36 years old when he sang this song. Sinatra and Gardner began their affair in the fall of 1949 while Sinatra was still married to his first wife (the mother of Nancy, Frank Jr. and Tina). Granted a divorce, Sinatra quickly married Gardner in November ‘51. But their fervent and volatile love was simply too hot and all-consuming and they separated in October ‘53. After a series of many failed reconciliations the two finally divorced in July ‘57, two short months after Sinatra made a second recording of this song.

He recorded the second version at the Capitol Tower in Hollywood on May 1, 1957, arranged and conducted by Gordon Jenkins, which was released in 1957 on the album Where Are You?.

The great Billie Holiday also sang the song.

This song is from Billie`s final album «Lady in Satin» completed in 1958 and released in her lifetime. Her final album, Billie Holiday, being recorded in March 1959 and released just after her death.

Billie Holiday in Olympia, November 1958

Billie Holiday in Olympia, November 1958

Ray Ellis said of the album: «I would say that the most emotional moment was her listening to the playback of «I’m a Fool to Want You». There were tears in her eyes…After we finished the album I went into the control room and listened to all the takes. I must admit I was unhappy with her performance, but I was just listening musically instead of emotionally. It wasn’t until I heard the final mix a few weeks later that I realized how great her performance really was.»

tsuyoshi-yamamoto-trio-_-midnight-sugar

After the shattering performance by Billie Holiday, it is time to listen to Tsuyoshi Yamamoto trio’s rendition of 1974. Soft, slow, but inspired, like the flow of blood back in the empty vessels of the despairing lover. There is no voice. The piece is from the album «Midnight Sugar». Touring with the Micky Curtis Band, Yamamoto had the chance to explore several international experiences that he would later use on this album as he worked with this band in France, England and Switzerland. In this album, the Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio plays two of Tsuyoshi’s own blues improvisations followed by jazz ballads that became standards for the trio. Yamamoto’s skill and his jazz feeling adds that certain touch of liveliness and spontaneity

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto (piano) Isoo Fukui (bass) Tetsujiro Obara (drums).

I move on with another instrumental interpretation of the song, rendered by Dexter Gordon’s saxophone.

The saxophone adds a dimension of fragility and volatility, and in this sense it also exacerbates the – naturally emerging – internal upheaval, making an even stronger impression on the listener. I just love it.

Dexter_Gordon_-_ClubhouseLP

It came out in the album Clubhouse, recorded in 1965, but not released until 1979 by Blue Note Records.

It is time to wrap up and close. I have chosen Elvis Costello and Chet Baker for the closing interpretation.

I like Costello and his interpretation, whilst I find Chet Baker’s performance magical. They performed in Ronnie Scott’s, London, on the 6th June 1986.

The musicians of this memorable performance were:

What a great song, and how magnificent the interpretations!

Restaurante El Serbal, Santander, Cantabria, Spain

Κυριακή, 8 Φεβρουαρίου, 2015

santander

Early in January I visited Cantabria, Spain and I was lucky to have lunch at El Serbal, a restaurant in the city of Santander. The restaurant is on the ground floor of an nondescript appartment complex in the center of the city.

I opted for the tasting menu paired with wines.

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

The amuse bouche was a fishball. I could taste the sea, but I would have liked a bit of acidity to break the saltiness and sweetness of the ball.

Fish suquet over prawns and seaweeds

Fish suquet over prawns and seaweeds

The first dish on the menu was a fish stew called «suquet». As I read in «Spanish Recipes»:

Suquet is the diminutive form of suc, or ‘juice’, in Catalan, which meansthat this wonderfully flavored dish is more correctly called juicy fish stew. The fish and shellfish used vary from cook to cook, and so does the amount of liquid – in fact, some people call this a stew, while others call it a soup – but saffron and almonds are typically part of the mix. – See more at: http://www.spain-recipes.com/suquet.html#sthash.WIbIv7o1.dpuf

It was very light, tasty, and I particularly enjoyed the prawn’s head, the best proof of the freshness of the ingredient. The seaweed was not prominent, and I confess I would have liked its presence to be more emphatic.

Cocido montañés

Cocido montañés: black pudding fritter, chorizo «churro»

The second dish was a deconstructed local stew of the mountains.

Cocido montañés is a delicious combination of beans, greens and compango, a mix of pork fat, chorizo, ribs and black pudding from the matacíu del chon (pig butchering), accompanied by breadcrumbs, egg and other meats.

As you can see there were in the middle one piece of black pudding, one piece of pork fat, and pork belly. On the left you can see the chorizo churro, a piece of deep fried chorizo sausage. On the right is a rather awkwardly placed green bean tempura.

I have never tasted the proper stew, so I cannot relate it to the deconstructed. All the pieces were tasty, the supreme being the chorizo and the fat. The black pudding was too small apiece, and rather dry, whereas the pork belly was rather bland.

Sauteed mushrooms

Sauteed mushrooms

Sauteed mushrooms picked in the forests of the nearby mountains. Absolutely delicious! Superb ingredient, cooked with respect and care so that the natural flavors are not overpowered by the seasoning and dressing of the dish.

Catch of the day

Catch of the day

The catch of the day was merluza. Perfectly cooked, accompanied by some tasty bits and pieces which I now forget.

Shoulder of Iberian pork

Shoulder of Iberian pork

The Iberian pork shoulder was melting in the mouth. It was served on a bed of cous cous dressed in teriyaki sauce. Japan rules! Splendid simplicity, and taste to the full!

Torrija

Caramelized Torrija de Brioche

The first desert was caramelized torrija made from brioche. Torrija is a traditional «sweet» in Spain, made form stale white bread. The up market dish that I tasted was made with brioche, not exactly stale white bread, and it was absolutely delicious! I could taste the butter, I could see the caramelized sugar, I could smell the eggs of the brioche.

Nougat pie

Nougat pie

The nougat pie with ice cream that followed was nice, but I found the pastry a bit tough. It lacked the flaky delicate texture that I would have preferred. The ice cream though was faultless.

For the love of chocolate

For the love of chocolate

The coffee was served accompanied by a chocolate tray. The concoction in the small container was delicious! The trufflw did not drive me crazy, but one cannot have it all!

I went away around 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and realized that although I had been in Santander for three hours only, I already liked the place. Thank you El Serbal! Thank you Rafael!

 

Dialogue: you owe me money

Κυριακή, 8 Φεβρουαρίου, 2015

money-treeP1: you owe me money.
P2: this was last year. Now I owe you nothing.
P1: but you haven’t paid me back.
P2: the new year does not recognize the debts of the previous year.
P1: but you continue to be pennyless. If you need more money I will not lend you. You must honor your obligations.
P2: but I have no money to pay you back.
P1: no problem, I will lend you money to pay me back.
P2: I do not understand. But I will think about it.

PS. P1 and P2 are two people who know each other and spend a lot of time together. They are alone, have no family, their whereabouts are fuzzy, they appear one day and they disappear the next. The dialogues take place in parks, open markets, deserted streets. Almost never indoors.

 

I wrote about the Basque Sculptor Eduardo Chillida some time ago.

Eduardo Chillida working on the terrace of Mas Bernhard painting his fired sculptures. St Paul de Vence 1973.

Eduardo Chillida working on the terrace of Mas Bernhard painting his fired sculptures. St Paul de Vence 1973.

The first time was on freedom, quoting what my friend Manolis wrote commenting on a photograph I took when I visited the Museum – Estate Chillida near San Sebastian.

The second time it was in reference to his homage to the German philosopher Martin Heidegger.

Eduardo Chillida in the Comb of the Winds

Eduardo Chillida in the Comb of the Winds

Today, after my second visit to the monumental installation «Comb of the Winds», I want to write about it. This was my second visit, the first being in 2010. The weather was windy and cloudy both times. The sea was rough, foamy waves all over. Something tells me this is the best weather to appreciate the installation.

Map of San Sebastian

Map of San Sebastian

Before I proceed, it is important that we look at the map and locate the installation in the San Sebastian area. You can see the installation on the left hand side, inside the red ellipse, which is the western edge of the bay, the foot of Igueldo hill. The Santa Clara island is in the middle, and the Urgull hill on the right, the eastern side.  Visitors will need to follow the signs to «Ondarreta Beach». Interestingly enough, there are no public signs for «El Peine del Viento».

Looking east: Santa Clara island

Looking east: Santa Clara island – January 2015. Photo NM.

I call the «Comb of the Winds» an installation, because it comprises three sculptures mounted on rocks.

Formally, it is more than that, it is a project, comprising the installation and the plaza (square) in front.

The plaza

The plaza before the installation was called «Paseo del Tenis»

The plaza in front of the installation was designed by the architect Luis Peña Ganchegui, who worked with Chillida for the first time in this project.

The project started in 1966 and took eleven years to complete in 1976.

The main rock before the installation

The main rock before the installation

The initial idea was to place one sculpture on the main rock.

But soon after they started working on the designs, Chillida realized that the sculpture was going to attract all the attention, and this was contrary to what he wanted to achieve, which was to use the sculpture as a means to highlight the space around it and the environment.

08_peine_viento_07

Chillida loved this edge of the San Sebastian coastline, at the foot of the Igueldo hill. He retreated there often, to enjoy the sea, the wind, the rocks. It was this atmosphere that he wanted to enhance and promote with his work, rather than have his work dominate the natural setting and in this sense, distort it.

The Comb of the Winds - January 2015

The Comb of the Winds – January 2015. Photo NM.

This is why he came up with the idea of three sculptures instead of one.

Luis Chillida, son of sculptor Eduardo Chillida, suggested in an interview (1) that the three sculptures represent the three domains of time: past, present, future.

The Comb of the Winds - January 2015. Photo NM.

The Comb of the Winds – January 2015. Photo NM.

The sculptor’s son claims that the sculpture mounted on the left side and the one on the rock right opposite to it are the past and the present, whereas the thirs sculpture that appears to be far away is the future, a future that blends in the horizon.

The  sculpture at the foot of the Igueldo Hill

The sculpture at the foot of the Igueldo Hill. Photo NM.

In his writings, the sculptor speaks for himself (2, p.61):

«I want for the space in my work to be like the grease that allows a machine to function properly. Masses that slip and engage with each other, but I do not want to start any machine. I want my pieces to be quiet and silent, the only way to partially escape the influence of time.»

The sculpture on the eastern rock - January 2015. Photo NM

The sculpture on the eastern rock – January 2015. Photo NM.

All three sculptures are made of steel.  Each weighs approximately 13 tonnes and is anchored to the rock in two pIaces. They were made at Patricio Echeverria’s industrial forge in Legazpia.

The northern sculpture - January 2015. Photo NM.

The northern sculpture – January 2015. Photo NM.

Chillida «worked» the material directly, he did not use a model or a mold. As the sculptures were big and complex, he built them in two parts each, and then connected the pieces.  Chillida learned from a local blacksmith the demanding labour of the forge, from stoking a fire and handling a bellows to pounding the malleable metal to achieve a desired form. «A piece of iron is an idea itself,» he said. «I must gain complete mastery over it and force it to take on the tension which I feel within myself.» (3)

Interestingly, after the mid 1960’s Chillida transitioned from working with steel to working with marble.

Moving the sculptures

Moving the sculptures

Moving the sculptures and installing them was not an easy operation.  They had to set up supporting structures for moving and lifting the heavy sculptures. One must note that the cranes of today were not available back then.

08_peine_viento_06

Today the three sculptures occupy their place anchored on the three rocks, day and night, be it sunny or rainy. The people of San Sebastian visit the Comb of the Winds on every possible occasion and they love it. There is something deeply egalitarian about the installation. It brings all people together to enjoy the sea landscape and their heritage. It is like part of this heritage are the strange metal structures hanging from the rocks.

Comb of the Winds - January 2015. Photo NM.

Comb of the Winds – January 2015. Photo NM.

Are they anchors?

Are they letters?

We do not know, and we do not need to know.

But what I know is that like the temples in the valley of Paestum in Italy, they exist in harmony with the landscape. It is like they belong there, like the landscape cannot exist without them and they cannot exist without the landscape.

Whereas in Paestum the temples are in a valley, in the Comb of the Winds is literally submerged in the foam of the sea waves. But in both cases the resplendent harmony is there.

Like the temples of Ancient Greece, Chillida’s sculptures are open. Space makes sense only when you make sense of the vacuum, of emptiness.

The analogy with temples is not limited to the harmony and the integration with the landscape, or the use of emptiness to denote space.

In a sense the «Comb of the Winds» is an open temple where you can pray to whoever and whatever you believe in, or contemplate life, or…

Concha Bay, San Sebastian. Photo NM.

Concha Bay, San Sebastian. Photo NM.

«In a certain way I am a disciple of the sea and, consequently, also of Bach because Bach is very similar to the sea. I do not know if Bach ever saw the ocean, but his work has a very impressive relationship to it. And he is among my mentors.» Eduardo Chillida (2, pg.30)

Eduardo Chillida at work

Eduardo Chillida at work

«…I have found that time exists in my sculpture. It exists in a version that is not the standard temporal one. Rather, this version is time’s brother: space. Space is the twin brother of time. They are two concepts that are absolutely parallel and similar. And because I am so conditioned by space, I have always been interested in time. In fact, my time is very slow:traditional time – that of the clock – does not interest me. I am interested in a concept of time that is about harmony, rythm and dimensions.» Eduardo Chillida (2, pg. 32)

Sources

1. El Peine del Viento. Mas Context.

2. Eduardo Chillida, Writings. Richter Verlag, 2009.

3. Eduardo Chillida. Obituary. The Telegraph.

Following my earlier post on the January 2015 parliamentary elections in Greece, I would like to add some more thoughts regarding the second elections (March/April 2015) and the political implications for some of the political parties.

Paul Klee, Red Baloon, Guggenheim Museum, New York

Paul Klee, Red Baloon, Guggenheim Museum, New York

First of all, it is quite interesting that as we approach the 25th January, political parties and analysts alike seem to be certain that there will be no second elections. I emphasize this because it seems to me to be the epitomy of shortsightedness and hypocricy.

In order to make it appear that SYRIZA will be able to form a government, all of a sudden they are no longer the bad kids on the block. They could be right in some things, they mean well, and so on. All of these are abstract generalities of no substance, and most important there is no discussion on the political positions of the parties and the interests and concerns of the electorate. Now we are told that the electorate does not want second elections. A few weeks ago we were told that the electorate did not want any elections.

Paul Klee, The Sublime Side, MOMA, New York

Paul Klee, The Sublime Side, MOMA, New York

We are told by the Minister of Finance that if SYRIZA gets elected, our creditors will consider giving Greece an extension of two months to wrap up the troika moratorium, provided that Greece asks for it. Today this reads more like a six month extension.

All of a sudden PASOK, POTAMI and ANEL – not the Communist Party, Golden Dawn and New Democracy – are open to discuss cooperation with SYRIZA.

Paul Klee;, Flower Garden, MOMA, New York

Paul Klee;, Flower Garden, MOMA, New York

One wonders why PASOK, POTAMI and ANEL are extending a week before the election a hand of cooperation to SYRIZA.

SYRIZA, on the other hand, seem to be fully aware of the fact that their only chance of governing Greece is the 25th January 2015. If they do not get absolute majority alone or with another party they will never govern the country.

It seems to me that this change of attitude and behaviour is not genuine, but a diversion.

The parties are for different reasons appearing as cooperative and supportive of a coalition government including SYRIZA for two basic reasons. The first is that they want to divert attention form some internal developments and the other is that they want to attract more voters, by appearing as cooperative.

Paul Klee, Actor's Mask, MOMA, New York

Paul Klee, Actor’s Mask, MOMA, New York

Let us consider each of these parties, starting with PASOK.

PASOK faces serious problems. IThe formation of George Papandreou’s new political party will take many votes away from PASOK who already suffered catastrophic results in the Euroelections of 2014. A bad result (below 7%) will have major impact on the party and may lead to its disappearance from mainstream politics. This leads the leadership of Mr. Venizelos to attempt to position PASOK as the guarrantor of a coalition government and even suggest to the voters that in order for a coalition to be strong they must vote for PASOK, so that it becomes the broker of a stable cooperative effort to govern the country. This reminds me of Genscher’s Free Democratic PArty in Germany. The attempt is clear, but in my view it will remain an attempt. PASOK lacks the credibility to become the broker of a coalition government in Greece. Not only that, the position of Mr. Venizelos in the party after the 25th January 2015 is questionable. It is most likely that Mr. Venizelos will step down from the presidency of PASOK.

POTAMI are equally eager to convince the voters that they are so nice and polite guys that they will do whatever it takes to form a coalition government, provided of course that it does not go against their political programme. This opportunism is working in favour of POTAMI as they appeal primarily to undecided voters from the right to the left, who do not want to vote for the two main contenders, New Democracy and SYRIZA.

Paul Klee, Around the fish, MOMA, New York

Paul Klee, Around the fish, MOMA, New York

Something similar is also said by PASOK. We will cooperate, provided that our political programme is respected.

POTAMI threw in yesterday a variance of the coalition position. They said that they may not participate in a SYRIZA-led government, but they will give it a vote of confidence, provided that their conditions will be met.

ANEL, the party led by Mr. Kammenos, is the only one of the three that maintains a steady position. They say that they have major differences with SYRIZA but, they are equally opposed to the memorandum of Greece with the «troika» creditors and threfore will discuss with SYRIZA the formation of a government. Mr. Kammenos is playing a smart game. He knows very well that the only political capital he has is his opposition ot the memorandum and he is trying to cash in on it by piggybagging on SYRIZA’s win. The catch is that in spite of all good intentions, S?YRIZA and ANEL combined will not have enough seats to give the needed vote of confidence to a new government of Greece.

Paul Klee, Glueht Nacht, Beyeler Foundation, Switzerland

Paul Klee, Glueht Nacht, Beyeler Foundation, Switzerland

The party of George Papandreou continues to be in the twilight zone between 2% and 3%. If things remain the same, he will not have any seats in the new parliament. But I believe that he will eventually get more than 3% of the national vote. Mr. PApandreou is not very vocal about a coalition with SYRIZA, he is very busy trying to re-establish his reputation as a politicla leader who cares for the people.

I have tried to give some explanations of the recently expressed strong desire by some of the parties to form a coalition government with SYRIZA, following the 25th January elections.

As a similar positive turn has occured amaong political analysts and journalists, I can only say that they relaised that scaremongering is not going to have an effect and decided to «keep their enemy closer than their friend».

Paul Klee, Tropische Daemmerung, Beyeler Foundation, Switzerland

Paul Klee, Tropische Daemmerung, Beyeler Foundation, Switzerland

Interestingly, they do not discuss the most likely outcome of the elections, which is that we will have a second round of elections following the election of the new president of the Hellenic Republic. But I will not elaborate on this, there is no need. We will soon know what will happen, without the help of the esteemed analysts.

I would like now to rurn to one of the implications of the elections of the 25th January and the failure to form a government, leading to a second round of elections. I think there will be major implications in the party of New Democracy. More specifically, a change in leadership.

All moderate politicla forces inside and outside of Greece will come to the conclusion – if they have not already done so – that the regime of Mr Samaras is over. He did what he could, but his time is over. The damage his policies inflicted on the people is so big that he cannot continue being the leader of the conservative party in Greece. A change is needed at once. Luckily for the conservatives, there are many candidates for the job. As an example, the daughter of ex-prime minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis, Dora Bakoyanni.

Paul Klee, Zeichen in Gelb, Beyeler Foundation, Switzerland

Paul Klee, Zeichen in Gelb, Beyeler Foundation, Switzerland

She is well educated, experienced in politics, she is moderate in her politics and has a strong following.

I do not want to elaborate further, as the key point I am trying to make is that there will be a change in the New Democracy leadership. Whoever is the new leader, will have a tough job ahead of her/him.

Following the change in leadership, New Democracy will have to work hard to re-build bridges with political forces of the center and form a coalition government. It will not be easy, but as I wrote in my earlier post, I believe it has quite a good chance for it to happen.

Parliamentary Elections in Greece – January 2015: The Outlook

Τρίτη, 6 Ιανουαρίου, 2015

Introduction

The coalition government of New Democracy and PASOK led by Mssrs. Samaras and Venizelos did not survive the three rounds of voting for the new president of Greek Democracy. As a result, on the 25th January 2015 the people of Greece will vote to elect the members of the Greek Parliament, who in turn will vote for the new President of the country and form a new government.

As we approach this critical date of parliamentary elections, I consider it pertinent to embark on building some scenarios for the results of the elections and what will follow.

There are two major events that will follow the parliamentary elections.

The election of the new president of Greece and the nomination of a new government.

The Greek Parliament has 300 seats.

In the vote for the new president, there will be a maximum of three rounds.

In the first round a majority of 181 votes is required. If this is not attained in the first round, the second round can elect president with 151 votes. Should this not be attained, the third round elects a president with simple majority.

In order to form a government a party or coalition of parties needs to get a minimum of 151 votes in parliament.

At first I will present the political parties who I think will get more than 3% of the vote and secure seats in the parliament.

Following that, I will proceed to build various scenarios. These scenarios are grouped in two groups. The first group refers to the January elections, whereas the second group refers to the potential second elections in March/April.

The outlook is presented as a set of outcomes, ranked by their probability of occurrence.

I conclude the post with some remarks on the tactical and strategic implications of this analysis.

Part II is published as a separate post, and focuses on some aspects of the «coalition formation processes and attitudes», as well as potential developments following the January elections.

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Color Planes 5

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Color Planes 5

The political parties

New Democracy

Orientations: Center-right, Right, Populist-right, Extreme-right

Leader: A. Samaras

Current status: Following two and a half years in government, New Democracy have made the fatal error of trying to cut the umbilical cord with Germany and the IMF too soon. In spite of that, having received many smacks on the face, they continue in my mind to be the favourites of Germany and the IMF. They will most likely not win in the January election, but this does not necessarily mean that they will not eventually govern again.

Outlook: I estimate they will get between 25 and 30 of the national vote and will be the second party after SYRIZA.

SYRIZA

Orientations: Center-right, Center, Center-left, Left, Extreme-left

Leader: A. Tsipras

Current status: SYRIZA was a marginal party of the left in 2008 when the financial crisis started. In the elections of 2012 they got more than 20 % of the vote and all of a sudden they became the opposition leaders. Today they claim the leadership of the country, having attracted many of the PASOK voters who feel betrayed by the current leader Mr. Venizelos. Their leader, Mr. Tsipras has polished his ways and is more moderate in his statements compared to previous years. In terms of policies, SYRIZA want to renegotiate the huge debt of the country. Whether they can do it is another story.

Outlook: They will get between 30 and 35 percent of the national vote and be the first party but they will have less than 150 members of parliament.

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Large Red Plane, Yellow, Black, Gray and Blue

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Large Red Plane, Yellow, Black, Gray and Blue

GOLDEN DAWN

Orientations: Fascists, Extreme-right, Right

Leader: N. Mikhaloliakos

Current status: The Golden Dawn is no longer comamnding percentages around 10%, but they continue to be strong, and over 5%. However, they are isolated by all other political parties and thus they will not be able to influence the outcome of the elections, unless they exceed 5% by a significant margin.

Outlook: They will get between 4 and 6 percent of the national vote.

KKE – Communist Party of Greece

Orientations: Communists

Leader: D. Koutsoumbas

Current status: Nothing is more stable and more predictable in Greek politics than KKE. They follow a solitary road for many years now (since they formed a coalition government with other parties in 1989). No surprises here. They will definitely not support SYRIZA under any circumstances.

Outlook: They will get between 4 and 6 percent of the national vote.

POTAMI

Orientations: Right, Center-right, Center, Center-left

Leader: S. Theodorakis

Current status: This party was formed a few weeks before the European Parliament elections of June 2014. They do not have any political agenda, and this will hurt them in the elections. Being unashamedly opportunistic and branding a nice smile does not get votes in a destroyed country. Many analysts predict that POTAMI will be the third strongest party in the elections, but I seriously doubt this.

Outlook: They will get between 3 and 5 percent of the national vote.

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Blue, Black, Yellow, and Gray

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Blue, Black, Yellow, and Gray

PASOK

Orientations: Center-right, Center, Center-left

Leader: E. Venizelos

Current status: PASOK is today a party of the past without any future. the formation of a new party by Mr. G. Papandreou was in my view PASOK’s death sentence. PASOK loyalists will vote for Mr. Papandreou. In spite of that, the momentum and the inertia of more than 30 years in politics, will keep them above the 3% mark.

Outlook: They will get between 3 and 5 percent of the national vote.

KDP – Movement of Democratic Citizens

Orientations: Center-right, Center, Center-left

Leader: G. Papandreou

Current status: This party may very well be the joker in the pack of parties. Initially this role was attributed to POTAMI, but now things have changed. G. Papandreou continues to be popular andmay very well take more than 3% of the vote, thus entering the parliament. Initally discarded as a prank, thie move to create a new party may turn all things upside down, especially if KDP win enough votes to be able to influence the formation of a new government.

Outlook: They will get between 3 and 5 percent of the national vote.

ANEL – Independent Greeks

Orientations: Extreme-right, Right, Center-right, Center, Center-left

Leader: P. Kammenos

Current status: This is a party of protest against the «troika» memorandum, but also a party of voters displeased with New Democracy. Basically it is a party of the right. The success or failure of Mr. Kammenos hinges upon his ability to lure the voters of the right to his weakening party.

Outlook: They will get between 2 and 4 percent of the national vote.

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red and Blue

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red and Blue

The scenarios

There are two sets of scenarios. One refers to the parliamentary elections of January 2015. The other to the potential repat elections sometime in late March – early April 2015.

I. Parliamentary elections of January 2015

Scenario 1: SYRIZA win and form a government 

Likelihood: 10%

SYRIZA win in this scenario, but do not have the required 151 seats in parliament. Therefore they will need to form an alliance of some sort with another party. The most likely candidate for this is the party of ANEL, assuming that they will receive more than 3% of the national vote, and that the combined seats are more than 150.

Scenario 2: SYRIZA win but cannot form a government

Likelihood: 80%

SYRIZA win but do not have the required 151 seats and cannot form an alliance with another party.

In this case, the parliamentary elections will be repeated after the election of the president. The earliest date would be the middle of March 2015.

In this scenario SYRIZA will most likely be able to vote in a president of their liking, but failing to form a government the country will go to the polls again and a new government will not be formed until early April 2015.

Scenario 3: New Democracy win and form a government

Likelihood: 1%

In this scenario New Democracy win and they form a coalition with other parties, securing the required 151 seats.

Scenario 4: New Democracy win, but cannot form a government

Likelihood: 9%

New Democracy win but do not have the required 151 seats and cannot form an alliance with another party.

In this case, the parliamentary elections will be repeated after the election of the president. The earliest date would be the middle of March 2015.

In this scenario New Democracy will most likely be able to vote a president of their liking, but failing to form a government the country will go to the polls again and a new government will not be formed until early April 2015.

Piet Mondrian, composition c

Piet Mondrian, composition c

II. Parliamentary elections of March 2015

The second round of elections will be the result of no party being able to form a government after the first round of elections in January 2015.

Scenario 5: SYRIZA win and form a government 

Likelihood: 1%

SYRIZA win in this scenario, but do not have the required 151 seats in parliament. Therefore they will need to form an alliance of some sort with anoth party. The most likely candidate for this is the party of ANEL, assuming that they will receive more than 3% of the national vote, and that the combined seats are more than 150.

Scenario 6: SYRIZA win but cannot form a government

Likelihood: 9%

SYRIZA win but do not have the required 151 seats and cannot form an alliance with another party.

Scenario 7: New Democracy win and form a government

Likelihood: 80%

In this scenario New Democracy win and they form a coalition with other parties, securing the required 151 seats.

Scenario 8: New Democracy win, but cannot form a government

Likelihood: 10%

New Democracy win but do not have the required 151 seats and cannot form an alliance with another party.

Piet Mondrian, Tableau I Lozenge with Four Lines and Gray

Piet Mondrian, Tableau I Lozenge with Four Lines and Gray

Outlook

On the basis of the above, the outlook for the political developments in Greece is as follows. Outcomes are sorted by their likelihood of occurrence, from high to low.

On the basis of the likelihood prercentages I attirbuted to each scenario, the most likely outcome is that SYRIZA will win the January elections, but will not be able to form a government. New Democracy will bounce back and form an alliance with one or more parties, becoming the government. The reasoning behind this scenario has to do with the declining momentum of SYRIZA. As I have already stated above, SYRIZA does not have a cohesive social support. It is an opportunistic aggregate that cannot sustain its momentum over a long period of time. The fact that there are so many other parties competing for the ever so important «middle» stratum of society, is a time bomb in the bowels of SYRIZA. Therefore, should SYRIZA not be able to form a government after the January elections, I predict it is going to deflate, lose its momentum and will be overtaken by New Democracy and the small «center, center-left» parties.

Second most likely outcome is that SYRIZA will win the January election and form an alliance with another party, ANEL and/or KDP, becoming the new government of Greece.  But in terms of probability this outcome has 10%, compared to 64% of Outcome 1.

Outcomes 3 and 4 lead to a third election that is a nightmare outcome, and one of the very good reasons that everyone will try to end the process with the second election.

Piet Mondrian, Broadway Boogie Woogie

Piet Mondrian, Broadway Boogie Woogie

The probability of each outcome is calculated as the product of the probabilities of each of the component scenarios, except in outcome 2, where there is only one scenario.

Outcome 1: Scenario 2 and Scenario 7 (0.80 * 0.80 = 0.64)

SYRIZA win the January elections, but cannot form a government. New Democracy win the second elections and form a government in alliance with one or more other parties. Most likely allies of New Democracy are: POTAMI, PASOK, KDP.

Outcome 2: Scenario 1 (0.10)

SYRIZA win the January elections and form a government in alliance with another party, most likely the ANEL party, although G. Papandreou’s KDP should not be ruled out.

Outcome 3: Scenario 2 and Scenario 8 (0.80 * 0.10 = 0.08)

SYRIZA win the January elections, but cannot form a government. New Democracy win the second elections but cannot form a government. A third election will need to take place.

Outcome 4: Scenario 2 and Scenario 6 (0.80 * 0.09 = 0.072)

SYRIZA win the January elections, but cannot form a government. SYRIZA win the second elections but cannot form a government. A third election will need to take place.

Piet Mondrian, Trafalgar Square

Piet Mondrian, Trafalgar Square

Tactical and strategic implications

Analyses of this sort are done because they highlight some important dynamics that must be taken into account from day one of the process leading to the elections.

I think that the analysis I presented above makes it very clear that if SYRIZA have a chance to form a government, they only have it in the January 2015 election. This means that they better try very hard to form an alliance with one or more parties in order to get the required vote of confidence from 151 members of parliament. Most likely allies of SYRIZA are the party of Mr. Kammenos, ANEL, and the party of MR. Papandreou, KDP. Both of these parties must prove their value in the electoral field.

Mr. Kammenos has been plagued by massive desertions and the polls show him below 3%. I think he will manage to get more than 3% but it will be a big struggle. Even assuming that they will enter parliament, the relationship between SYRIZA and ANEL may very well be a marriage made in hell, as Mr. Kammenos is quite temperamental and unpredictable, while SYRIZA may be unable to tolerate the extreme views of the ANEL party.

This leaves Mr. G. Papandreou as the best bet for SYRIZA to become the new government of Greece. A strong performance of KDP in the polls will legitimize Mr. Papandreou and the power broker and will force the «purists» of SYRIZA to look away while a deal between the two parties is struck. The big prerequisite here is a KDP percentage above 5%. If I am right in this, SYRIZA must be praying for the center and center-left strate of voters to vote for Mr. G. Papandreou.  Having said that, I doubt that SYRIZA have the political maturity to accept Mr. Papandreou as their ally in a new government.

For New Democracy the best tactical moves will be the ones that take votes away from ANEL and KDP, thus weakening the potential SYRIZA allies. The January elections will be a necessary evil, but not the end, because New Democracy will hope that S?YRIZA will fail to form a new government, thus opening the door to the second elections, which will be good for New Democracy. SYRIZA’s failure in January will bring the voters back to New Democracy, and make the smaller center, and center-left parties eager to form an alliance with the real winners, New Democracy. On the other hand, New Democracy will take advantage of the situation to present the new government as an alliance of political forces from a very wide spectrum of the political forces of Greece. This will be the best legitimization of the policies to be followed in the next two years.

There are other potential implications for New Democracy which are explored in Part II.

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