A cup of the Boscoreale treasure

Κυριακή, 17 Ιανουαρίου, 2016

Epicurus was an Athenian philosopher who lived from 341 to 270 BC.

After his death some of his followers traveled to Rome, found champions of Epicureanism there, and set up Epicurean societies. Epicurean philosophy became very popular among the highly educated and intellectually oriented Romans.



A prominent Epicurean School was established in Naples, initially directed by Siro.  It was there that a community of Epicureans flourished.

When it comes to the world of ideas and how they apply to everyday life, one needs to ask whether philosophical discourse is contained and restricted in the discussions of the school, the community, a group of friends. Of course we would not expect all people to be engaged in the discussion, but it is interesting to establish the degree to which these discussions have an impact on everyday life.

Today’s post is about one artifact that provide an indication that the presence of the Epicureans in the area of Naples was known to wider circles and was on occasion a topic of satire and humor.  


In 1895, excavations at a Roman villa at Boscoreale on the slopes of Vesuvius unearthed a remarkable hoard of silver treasure, including 109 items of tableware, which the owner had stashed in a wine tank prior to the eruption that buried the region of Naples in AD 79. This prestigious collection, dating from between the late 1st century BC and the early 1st century AD, testifies to one of the finest periods in Roman silverware and reflects the taste of wealthy Campanians for drinking cups with relief decoration.(1)

Among the cups, sixteen in number, two are especially noteworthy. They are four inches high, and form a pair; they are ornamented with skeletons in high relief, so grouped that each cup presents four scenes satirizing human life and its interpretation in poetry and philosophy. (2)

These two silver cups, famous for their strange decoration, are embellished with gold. They formed a pair of modioli (from the Latin, meaning “small measures”), so called because their shape is reminiscent of the modius, a container used to measure wheat. A Latin inscription on the base of one of the cups gives their weight and the name of their owner, Gavia. (1)


The scenes from one of the two cups of poetry and philosophy

One of the two cups depicts two prominent Hellenistic philosophers, Epicurus and Zeno. 

On the left side of the picture above we have two skeletons engaged in a mute dialogue. The skeletons are the two philosophers, who were known for their deep differences.

At the left the Stoic Zeno appears, standing stiffly with his philosopher’s staff in his left hand, his wallet hanging from his neck; with right hand extended he points the index finger in indignation and scorn at Epicurus, who, paying no heed to him, is taking a piece of a huge cake lying on the top of a small round table. Beside Epicurus an eager pig with snout and left foreleg uplifted is demanding a share. Over the cake is the inscription: τὸ τέλος ἡδονή, ‘the goal of life is pleasure.’ The letters of the inscription, as of the names of the philosophers, are too small to be shown distinctly in our illustration.(2)


Zeno of Citius was a Greek philosopher (334-262 BC) who stood opposite to Epicurus. He founded the Stoic school of philosophy, which he taught in Athens from around 300 BC. Zeno believed that pleasure is a vice. Stoicism became the foremost popular philosophy among the educated elite in the Hellenistic world and the Roman Empire.


Bronze piglet from a villa in Hercolanum

A few words about the piglet are in order.

Epicureans were likened to pigs by many of opposing views, in order to denigrate the principal Epicurean view that the goal of life is pleasure. This has been documented by the Roman poet Horace.  

In an epistle addressed to his melancholy friend and fellow poet, Albius Tibullus, Horace wrote: (3) 

Treat every day that dawns for you as the last.
The hour that’s unhoped for will be welcome when it comes.
When you want to smile then visit me: sleek, and fat
I’m a hog, well cared-for, one of Epicurus’ herd.

The bronze piglet we see above is in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, and was found in the Villa of Papyri in Herculaneum, where it supposedly partnered Epicurus’ bust. 

In my view the presence of the piglet on the cup is fully justified by the association of Epicureans with pigs. It is quite interesting to note the humorous aspect of the depiction.  

The two cups have similar and complementary repoussé decoration depicting the skeletons of tragic and comic poets and famous Greek philosophers, beneath a garland of roses. Greek inscriptions engraved in dots form captions, and are accompanied by Epicurean maxims such as: «Enjoy life while you can, for tomorrow is uncertain.» (1)

Drinking cups like these were used at the verbal sparring matches held at Roman banquets. As at Trimalchio’s feast (described by Petronius in the Satyricon), the guests sought to outdo each other in erudition, using Greek philosophical and literary references to promote sensual and intellectual pleasures. The choice of a ring of skeletons to decorate these modioli is neither macabre nor particularly surprising, but is on the contrary a hymn to life—an incitement to enjoy the present. This same theme is often represented—admittedly with less panache—on everyday items such as earthenware goblets, lamps, mosaics, or funerary monuments. Trimalchio himself had articulated silver skeletons placed on the table for his guests (Satyricon, 34, 8-10), reminding them that humans should be humble, as even the most enlightened poet or philosopher cannot avoid death.(1)

Both cups had evidently long been in use; there are still some traces of gilding, which, however, seems not to have been applied to the skeletons. While the explanatory inscriptions are in Greek, a Latin name, Gavia, is inscribed on the under side of the second cup, in the same kind of letters as the record of weight. The Gavii were a family of some prominence at Pompeii; we are perhaps warranted in concluding that the cups were made by a Greek for this Pompeian lady, and that afterward they came into the possession of another lady, Maxima, who formed the collection.(2)

After looking at the cup with the two philosophers we can clearly assume that the philosophical dialogue between Stoics and Epicureans was conducted out in the open and was an item of discussion and satire among the wealthy.


(1) Boscoreale Treasure, Louvre Museum, Paris, France

(2) Pompeii, Its Life and Art, by August Mau

(3) Epicurean Happiness: A Pig’s Life?  David Konstan. Journal of Ancient Philosophy Vol. VI 2012 Issue 1


Yesterday is a day to be marked on the modern Greek political calendar.

It may be a very important day.


Kyriakos Mitsotakis

Almost 400,000 members voted Mr. Kyriakos Mitsotakis as the new leader of the «New Democracy» party of Greece. Mr. Mitsotakis crafted a clear political agenda for this election and campaigned hard on the basis of this agenda. His opponent, Mr. Meimarakis merely advertised the fact that he was the favorite of ex prime minister Mr. Karamanlis and the powerful political machine he operates in the party.

This vote is a radical departure from the line of ex prime minister Mr. Kostas Karamanlis, who was promoting and supporting Mr., Vaggelis Meimarakis, a veteran of the party and follower of Mr. Karamanlis.


Kostas Karamanlis

New Democracy under the stranglehold of Mr. Karamanlis and his followers has become an aged party, out of sync with society, as the two national elections of 2015 have shown.

Syriza, the governing party, is truly a transfiguration of PASOK, the party that rules Greece for most of the period following the military dictatorship of 1967 – 1974.

Alexis Tsipras

Alexis Tsipras

Under the pink cover and the empty words of populism, Mr. Tsipras is a cheap replica of Andreas Papandreou.


Andreas Papandreou

The coming of Syriza to power is not the beginning of a «left» leaning period of governance in Greece, it is simply the extension and continuation of the most extreme populist trends in PASOK.

Therefore Greece is a country where the economic and social crisis has not triggered a political turmoil, but only a change of guard so that the old and dated PASOK and New Democracy could be followed by the young Turks of the «new PASOK», Syriza.

Until yesterday that is. The election of Kyriakos Mitsotakis is the first truly significant political development in Greece in the 21st century. Because a significant percentage of the body of citizens decided that the Karamanlis period of New Democracy is over. And with it ends the post military dictatorship era, 1974 – 2016.

This election is a political event of major proportion.

Mr. Mitsotakis received the mandate to rejuvenate the party and make it a party that follows a new track, abandoning the «cast» like Karamanlis tradition. It is not an easy task. As a matter of fact, it is an extremely difficult one. But it can be done, and it opens a window of optimism in the cloudy political skies of Greece, where there has been nothing new since 1974.


Konstantinos Karamanlis

What was new in 1974, was the marvelous twins, New Democracy and PASOK. They did well and brought the country to an almost complete disaster in 2015.Now Syriza is continuing the work of PASOK.

The election of Mr. Prokopis Pavlopoulos as the President of the Hellenic Republic in early 2015 indicated the underlying «good relations» between Mr; Karamanlis and Mr. Tsipras. Mr. Pavlopoulos has served as a minister under Mr. Karamanlis and is considered to belong to the «inner circle» of the ex prime minister.

In the period preceding yesterday’s election, it was almost openly disclosed that Mr. Karamanlis and Mr. Tsipras are on the same wagon, and this would be continued with the election of Mr. Meimarakis as the leader of New Democracy. Where there is smoke there is fire.

But New Democracy broke ranks and is now on a new route.

The coming months are going to be critical.

Mr. Mitsotakis has a lot to do, but the most important thing for now is to focus on the important. He must solidify his power base, listen to the people who elected him, craft a manifesto for the rejuvenation not only of New Democracy but also of Greek Politics at large, and receive a stamp of approval for all of this by a National Congress of New Democracy, that will also be an opportunity to bring new, currently idle, social and political groups in the party.

As the Chinese say, if you want to go fast, you must walk, not run.







First day of the year 2016 – Lunch

Σάββατο, 2 Ιανουαρίου, 2016



The day started with snow on the ground and the trees, the bushes, the table, the umbrella, and so on.

The concept of this menu was developed by my alter ego, Niccolo Spiro Salvatore Domenico Francesco Morosini. I confess I have an affinity to the Venetian Republic, la Serenissima, Florence, and Italy in general.


Home made bread

Home baked bread

Made with flour from the region of Macedonia, Drama.


Smoked salami from Corfu

There are still some artisans producing delicious food. This salami is spicy and rich. The best antipasto for a cold day. I can see the traces of the influence of Venetian rule on the island of Corfu. Corfu has never been ruled by the Ottoman Turks.


Olives from Amfissa

I served two types, the juicy salty big ones, and the sweet wrinkled (hamades), the ones made from olives that have fallen on the ground and not picked.   Amfissa is a provincial city 10 km away from Delphi. The breathtaking valley of olive trees that you see from Delphi belongs to the area of Amfissa. That’s where the olives come from.


Rolled Cabbage with pork sausage cooked in duck fat

I had some sausages from the Basque country and used them as filling in the cabbage rolls. I served them with a light sauce of coriander and lemon juice.


The sausage and duck fat were produced by the artisan ANNE ROZES on France, Basque Country. The cabbage is locally produced in Marathon, and it is like silk. Very tender, sweet, the perfect companion to duck fat.


Tourte with Ewe

I roasted the ewe, cut it to small cubes and then marinated it in a mix of herbs and spices. The tradition of preparing a tourte with meat comes from the island of Crete, another place in Greece that has been ruled by the Venetian Republic.



Both the fresh cheese and the Gruyere come form the island of Crete.


New Year’s Gateau

A traditional gateau of the north of Greece, with butter, flour, eggs and lemon zest.


Patrimo, 2001
Feudi di San Gregorio

La Poderina
Poggio Banale 1997
Brunello di Montalcino

Champagne Laurent – Perrier


The Condor, «Big» Davey, Rudi Gernreich’ s monokini and Carol Doda

Κυριακή, 27 Δεκεμβρίου, 2015



This article must be avoided by all people who cannot tolerate, accept, and so on, the naked female body. Please abandon ship now and seek safe passage to another destination.


The Condor Club, North Beach, San Francisco, 1973


This is a story about a place, the night club «The Condor», a female dancer, Carol Doda, a Public Relations (PR) agent, «Big» Davey Rosenbeg, and a fashion designer, Rudi Gernreich. Together, they made «topless entertainment» a reality in San Francisco in the early 1960s.



Carol Doda in The Condor

Carol Doda

Carol Ann Doda was born in Solano County, in Northern California, on Aug. 29, 1937, and raised in San Francisco. Her parents divorced when she was 3.

As reported in LIFE magazine (11 March 1966) Ms. Doda held a number of jobs like prune-picker, file clerk, ballroom dance instructor and cocktail waitress before becoming an employee of the Condor nightclub in San Francisco’s North Beach.


Enter a caption

The Condor


The Condor had a different name and owner before 1964. Its name was «House of Pisco», named after the drink «Pisco Punch». Pisco is a late 16th century brandy made from grapes that originated in the Viceroyalty of Peru. It was available in San Francisco since the 1830s when it was first brought from Pisco, Peru via ship by rawhide and tallow traders trading with California towns. During the California Gold Rush of 1849 the brandy was readily available in San Francisco.

In 1964 «The Condor» needed a push to its business, which was moderate in volume to say the least.

Hiring «Big» Davey Rosenberg as a PR man was one thing. It turned out that it was more than enough.


«Big» Davey Rosenfeld in The Condor Club with three of the performers (1972)



«Big» Davey Rosenberg

«Big» Davey Rosenberg was a public relations agent in San Francisco. He was not a moderate man. He once told a Playboy interviewer.

«I personally am responsible for the name ‘topless entertainment’… I personally put ‘topless’ in the dictionary.»

Davey Rosenberg was the right man in the right place on the 19th June 1964, the day that changed «The Condor» and many other things in San Francisco and the United States of America.


Rudi Gernreich

Rudi Gernreich

Rudi Gernreich, was an Austrian-born American fashion designer and early gay activist who had learned about female fashion in his aunt’s dress shop in Vienna. Rudi and his mother fled Austria after its annexation to Nazi Germany, where Hitler had banned nudity, among many other acts. Austrian citizens were advocates of exercising nude, a rejection of the over-civilized world. Gernreich was very much against sexualization of the human body and the notion that the body was essentially shameful, which was reflected prominently in his designs. (MessyNessy)

His genial way of cutting fabrics and his dramatic vision of female silhouette gave him the idea to create the top-less swimsuit. Trying to avoid any connection with pornography, he incorporated the idea of ​​topless in every outfit.(afashionhistory)

In 1964 Gernreich designed the monokini, a topless swimsuit. The monokini had a rough reception.

peggy moffit - gernreich-3

Widely censored in the media and renounced from all corners including Vatican officials and the U.S Republicans, who tried to blame the suit on the Democrats’ stance on moral issues. Even the Soviet Union chimed in, calling it barbarianism. Never intended by the designer to be a commercial success, over 3000 monokinis at $24 were sold in New York in the summer of 1964 at leading store like Henri Bendel. (MessyNessy)


L-R: Davey Rosenberg, Gino del Prete, Carol Doda, and Herb Caen at the Condor Club on 22 October 1965


At this point we have all the ingredients required to put together the story. But having all the ingredients of a story is not enough. They have to somehow come together. In this story, the agent who brought them together was Davey Rosenberg.

The Condor’s publicist, «Big» Davy Rosenberg came up with the idea to have Carol Doda dance in a monokini. The garment was brought for $25 at the I. MAgnin store in San Francisco, and on the 19th June 1964, it all came together. Carol Doda, wearing Rudi Gernreich’s monikini  performed topless that night.

In a 2009 interview with The San Francisco Chronicle, Ms. Doda, a former secretary and cocktail waitress, said: “The minute I knew I existed in life was the night I started the Condor thing. The only thing that mattered to me was entertaining people.”  (The New York Times)

Within a few days, women in clubs all the Broadway St. clubs of San Francisco were sporting the monokini in many of the clubs lining San Francisco’s Broadway St, effectively reinventing the burlesque era of the early 20th century and ushering in the era of the topless bar.


Carol Doda




From a 34B to a 44DD

There was a technicality though that had to be addressed. Carol Doda’s natural bust was not big enough for the monokini dance.

Ms Doda was transformed from a 34B to a 44DD by 44 surgical treatments (the number was “just a coincidence,” she said) in which emulsified silicone, was injected at a cost of about $12,000 in today’s dollars. The procedure has since been banned, but Ms. Doda, who began every day with a bowl of Wheaties, said she suffered no health complications. Her bust was said to have been insured for $1.5 million. (The New York Times)



Carol Doda with Bay Area wrestling pesonality Woody Farmer (1980) – Bay Area News Group Archives

The 1965 Bust

On April 22, 1965 Doda was arrested with Gino del Prete, owner of the Condor Club during police raids to stop bare-bosom shows in North Beach.. They were cleared when two judges instructed innocent verdicts. Judge Friedman’s memorandum to opposing attorneys reads,

«Whether acts … are lewd and dissolute depends not on any individual’s interpretation or personal opinion, but on the consensus of the entire community …» 


Carol Doda is no longer inhabiting this planet. She passed away a month ago. But her legacy stays on.

“I don’t believe topless is a fad,” Carol Doda told the (San Francisco) Chronicle in January 1967. “It’s something that’s going to stay — like burlesque.”




Return to the sea: Saltworks by Motoi Yamamoto

Κυριακή, 13 Δεκεμβρίου, 2015

Motoi Yamamoto was born in Onomichi, Hiroshima in 1966 and received his B.A. from Kanazawa College of Art in 1995. He has exhibited his award-winning creations in such cities as Athens, Cologne, Jerusalem, Mexico City, Seoul, Tokyo, and Toulouse. He was awarded the Philip Morris Art Award in 2002 as well as the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 2003.

LMU_Yamamoto_Postcard_R5 1-618x400

The field of modern and contemporary art is crowded with artists who have worked with unconventional materials. From Meret Oppenheim’s mink-lined teacup to Joseph Beuys’s felt and suet, to Wolfgang Laib’s use of bee pollen, the list is endless. Enter Motoi Yamamoto. He uses salt to create mental maps, miniatures of the mind. Yet, in his case, he doesn’t seem to choose materials merely for the sake of novelty or originality.(5)


Throughout the ages of Japanese history, salt has played an elemental role in cultural and spiritual tradition. Salt has acted as a symbol of mourning and is often mythically related to taboos and superstitions, spiritually representing purification.


Yamamoto forged a connection to salt while mourning the death of his sister, at the age of twenty-four, from brain cancer and began to create art out of the element in an effort to preserve his memories of her. Salt, is used in funeral rituals and by sumo wrestlers before matches. It is frequently placed in small piles at the entrance to restaurants and other businesses to ward off evil spirits and to attract benevolent ones. Yamamoto’s art radiates an intense beauty and tranquility, but also conveys something ineffable, painful, and endless. (1)


Motoi Yamamoto, Bellevue I


While at first Yamamoto’s salt patterns look random, closer scrutiny reveals that each installation is in fact a true labyrinth with limited points of entry leading to the center of the work. He notes comparisons to western European mythology where labyrinths symbolized rebirth… Through creating these intricate labyrinths of salt, Yamamoto says he expresses both the re-creation of a memory, as well as the physical representation of how memories are formed. Seen in another way, his saltworks also look eerily like one-dimensional flattened brains, metaphorically mimicking the corridors and paths of memory.(3)


Motoi Yamamoto

Both Tibetan Sand Mandalas and Diné [Navajo] sand paintings have similar principles of execution, where the creators use colored sand to make elaborate displays which are ritually destroyed after completion to represent the inconsequence of humans in the metaphysical scheme. Yamamoto has a comparable intent with his process, wherein the salt mazes are enjoyed only briefly, then swept away. He requests that any salt used in his installations be returned to the nearest sea.  (3)



It is the role of salt in his culture and the nature of his sisters illness that led Yamamoto to begin creating temporary pictures of the brain out of salt. This journey of his, this attempt to reconnect with his sister, remember her through the process of work has led him to create amazing drawings which confront the viewer with the reality of death.(4)


Here’s what Yamamoto has to say about his work:

Drawing a labyrinth with salt is like following a trace of my memory. Memories seem to change and vanish as time goes by. However, what I seek is the way in which I can touch a precious moment in my memories that cannot be attained through pictures or writings. I always silently follow the trace, that is controlled as well as uncontrolled from the start point after I have completed it. (4)



  1. Return to the Sea: Saltworks by Motoi Yamamoto, Laband Gallery
    September 8 – December 8, 2012
  2. Monterey Museum of Art Hosts Return to the Sea, Saltworks by Motoi Yamamoto
  3. Yamamoto Motoi | Saltworks
  4. Motoi Yamamoto’s Salt Drawings Are An Incredible Testimony to The Artists Love For His Sister
  5. MOTOI YAMAMOTO RETURN TO THE SEA: SALTWORKS. Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art


Murakami’s Oysters

Τρίτη, 8 Δεκεμβρίου, 2015



Haruki Murakami, by danetta

This is a post about oysters and the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. In a speech delivered to his fans in Fukushima, Japan, the writer used «frying oysters» as a metaphor to writing novels.

I start with the sppech as reported by the Guardian and the Asahi Shimbun, and then make a detour to the origin of Murakami’s J. Press short novels.  I conclude with  long quotation from the first J. Press short novel «Hotel Lobby Oysters».

November 2015  (1&2)

KORIYAMA, Fukushima Prefecture–In a rare public appearance, author Haruki Murakami likened the writing of his novels to frying oysters in remarks to about 200 literary fans here on Nov. 29.

Murakami appeared at the local literary conference as a surprise guest along with fellow writer Hideo Furukawa and Motoyuki Shibata, a leading translator of American contemporary literature. (2)

His wife can’t stand the dish, so he has no choice but to cook and eat them alone, he told the audience, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

“I am lonely, but they are delicious,” he added. “Like the relationship between solitude and freedom, it moves in an endless cycle. Picking out single words that are contained within me is also a solitary act so [writing novels] is similar to eating fried oysters by myself.

“When my mind grows pressured when I think that I am writing a novel, I feel more relaxed when I think that I am only frying oysters.” (1)



1974 (4)

In 1974, Tokyo-based apparel giant Onward Kashiyama licensed the traditional American gentleman’s brand J. Press for the Japanese market. In the U.S., J. Press was well-known as a campus retailer for the Ivy League and its graduates on Madison Avenue, but in Japan, Onward took the brand to the masses, opening J. Press corners in dozens of department stores across the country. Upon its entry to Japan, the brand quickly became a favorite of Baby Boomers who had grown up on Ivy League style in the mid-1960s and still wanted to wear tweeds, oxford-cloth button down shirts, and khaki pants as adults. J. Press did well in Japan, and in 1986, right smack in the Bubble Economy, Onward bought the American company outright.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Onward spent massive sums on advertising J. Press in the print media. The classic ad format, often seen on the back cover of lifestyle magazine Popeye, showed a Japanese or American man telling a colorful story about their favorite trad clothing item. In 1985, as Japanese pop culture went in more avant-garde directions, Onward came up with a new idea — asking up-and-coming novelist Murakami Haruki to write a very short story inside each month’s advertisement for magazines Popeye, Box, and Men’s Club.


1985-1987 (4)

Onward approached Murakami about the J. Press ads through writer, editor, and legendary game designer Itoi Shigesato. According to Murakami’s afterword in Yoru no Kumozaru (『夜のくもざる』), the collected edition of the works, he was given license to write whatever he wanted. “Just have fun with it,” Itoi told him. So once a month from April 1985 to February 1987, Murakami wrote a “short short” (短い短編), which was set on its own page with an illustration by famed artist Anzai Mizumaru at the top and a small J. Press logo in the lower left corner.

The J. Press Stories (translations are by Morales unless otherwise noted):

1. Apr 1985 – “Hotel Lobby Oysters” 「ホテルのロビー牡蠣」
2. May 1985 – “The Party” 「”THE PARTY”」
3. Jun 1985 – “Elephant” 「象」
4. Jul 1985 – “Picnic” 「ピクニック」
5. Sep 1985 – “French Horn” 「ホルン」
6. Nov 1985 – “Pencil Sharpener (Or Watanabe Noboru as Fate)”「鉛筆削り (あるいは幸運としての渡辺昇)」(translation Jay Rubin)
7. Dec 1985 – “Julio Iglesias” 「フリオ・イグレシアス」
8. Jan 1986 – “Time Machine (Or Watanabe Noboru as Fate Part 2)” 「タイム・マシーン (あるいは幸運としての渡辺昇 ②)」(translation Jay Rubin)
9. Mar 1986 – “Croquette” 「コロッケ」
10. Apr 1986 – “Cards” 「トランプ」(translation Jay Rubin)
11. May 1986 – “Newspaper” 「新聞」
12. Jun 1986 – “Donut-ization” 「ドーナツ化」
13. Jul 1986 – “Antithesis”「アンチテーゼ」
14. Sep 1986 – “Eel”「うなぎ」
15. Oct 1986 – “Takayama Noriko and My Libido”「高山典子さんと僕の性欲」
16. Nov 1986 – “Octopus”「タコ」
17. Dec 1986 – “Wrench”「スパナ」(translation Jay Rubin)
18. Jan 1987 – “Donuts, Again” 「ドーナツ、再び」
19. Feb 1987 – “Attack of the Mushikubo Old Guy”「虫窪老人の襲撃」



Murakami shoots to global fame with his 1987 novel Norwegian Wood.

Hotel Lobby Oysters

Here’s the first J.Press ‘short short’, Hotel Lobby Oysters:(3)

At the time I was sitting on the hotel lobby sofa and vaguely thinking about oysters. Not lemon soufflé, not pencil sharpeners – oysters. I don’t know why. I just suddenly realized that I was thinking about oysters.

The oysters I was thinking about on the hotel lobby sofa were different from oysters thought about anywhere else. They were shaped differently, they smelled differently, and their color was different, too. They weren’t oysters harvested in some cove. They were pure oysters harvested in a hotel lobby.

After thinking about oysters for a while, I went to the sink to wash my face, then retied my tie and returned to the sofa. When I got back, the oysters had already disappeared from inside my head. Again, I don’t know why. Maybe it was because I washed my faced or because I retied my tie. Or maybe the hotel oyster season is extremely short.

When the girl came 17 minutes after our appointed time, I told her about the hotel lobby oysters. The image was so distinct I felt like I had to tell someone about them.

“You want to eat oysters?” she asked.

“No, these oysters, they were purely oysters as a concept, unrelated to my appetite,” I explained. “The oysters came into being as the very essence of oys—“

“But you do want to eat some, right?” she said.

When she mentioned it and I settled down to think about it, I certainly had developed an incredible desire to eat oysters. We went to the hotel restaurant and ate 25 oysters while drinking wine. Sometimes I think my appetite originates from a really strange place.



  1. Librarians in uproar after borrowing record of Haruki Murakami is leaked, The Guardian
  2. Haruki Murakami reveals that frying oysters helps him write novels, The Asahi Shimbun
  3. Selling Out: Murakami’s ‘Short Shorts’, Peach Fuzz
  4. Murakami Haruki’s Advertorial Short Stories, neojapanisme

Eucken and Husserl: Arguments for just war

Δευτέρα, 23 Νοεμβρίου, 2015


In the context of a MOOC I am taking on the First World War and Modern Philosophy, I read the pro-war views of two German philosophers, Eucken and Husserl. In this short essay I will discuss Eucken’s two major arguments for just war, drawing from Eucken’s “The Moral Power of the War” (1) and supplement his views with Husserl’s as expressed in “Fichte’s Ideal of Humanity.” (2)

The two philosophers

Rudolf Eucken (1846 – 1926) was a German philosopher, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1908.

Edmund Husserl (1859 – 1938) was a German philosopher of Jewish descent.

I had not heard of Eucken until I took the MOOC, but knew of Husserl as a rigorously trained philosopher, who was disallowed for university duty by the Nazis and later resigned from the German Academy. I was not aware of his pro-war writings.

Both of Husserl’s sons were enlisted in 1914. Wolfgang Husserl died in the battlefield of Verdun in 1916. Gerhard Husserl was injured in 1917, but survived.

First argument

The first major argument put forward by Eucken is that this war is a just war because it “is waged by a whole nation for the purpose of self-preservation,  the maintenance of its sacred goods, and a defense against violent attacks, it will strengthen solidarity among the people, unveil hitherto dormant powers, and increase the standard of life.”

Eucken’s first argument can be summarised as follows:

The nation has purposes, war is the only way of achieving them, and therefore war is just.

Eucken identifies the “purposes” of the nation, but does not prove that the only way of achieving them is by waging war. I would have expected Eucken to identify at least one other way of achieving these purposes and then proceed to critically examine why war is the only way. Please note that by default, should there be another way of a nation achieving its purposes, this “non-war” way would be preferred over war.

Therefore the first argument is flawed, as its second premise is unfounded.

Second argument

In the second argument, Eucken introduces the higher forces that comprise an invisible network that unites the German people and leads them to a noble path. The people believe in these higher forces and allows them to be certain that their war deeds are not in vain, because they are done for the shake of these forces.

Husserl builds on this second argument. He elevates the German national Ideal to the Ideal of a genuine and true people. He asserts that «we exist in order to realize the pure Ideals… (we) wish to conquer in the war so that there be continued the revelation of divine Ideas in our glorious German people.»

The second argument can be rephrased as follows:

The German people are on a noble path by virtue of an invisible network of higher forces. The German people are genuine and glorious and they exist in order to realize the pure and divine ideals, which are necessary for the world to exist as a moral world. When the German people go to war, this war is fought to protect the pure and divine ideals from which morality springs, therefore it is a just war. They have to be victorious so that they continue being the carriers of divine ideals.

The flaw in this argument is the presumed exclusivity that the German people have in their union with the higher forces, their destiny to be the bearers of pure and genuine ideals, their morality. Why are the Germans unique in all of these? Why aren’t there other people who are in union with the higher forces? This is where the second argument collapses.

Summarising, Eucken’s arguments for just war are shaky and dangerous. They promote the concept of the “privileged” people and present war as a one way street.



  1. The Moral Power of the War (Die sittliche Kräfte des Krieges) by Rudolf Eucken, 1914. Translated by Anton Leodolter
  2. Fichte’s Ideal of Humanity (Three Lectures) by Edmund Husserl. From Edmund HusserlAufsiitze und Vortri~ge (1911-1921), Husserliana XXV, ed. Thomas Nenon and Hans Reiner Sepp (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1987), pp. 267-293. Numbers in text placed in square brackets refer to these pages.]. Translation by James G. Hart



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