Monday, November 24, 2014

On Traveling

If I’d learnt one thing from traveling, it was that the way to get things done was to go ahead and do them. Don’t talk about going to Borneo. Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens.
from Alex Garland's The Beach

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Poem of the Day

"Stufen" von Hermann Hesse

Wie jede Blüte welkt und jede Jugend
Dem Alter weicht, blüht jede Lebensstufe,
Blüht jede Weisheit auch und jede Tugend
Zu ihrer Zeit und darf nicht ewig dauern.
Es muß das Herz bei jedem Lebensrufe
Bereit zum Abschied sein und Neubeginne,
Um sich in Tapferkeit und ohne Trauern
In andre, neue Bindungen zu geben.
Und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne,
Der uns beschützt und der uns hilft, zu leben.

Wir sollen heiter Raum um Raum durchschreiten,
An keinem wie an einer Heimat hängen,
Der Welgeist will nicht fesseln uns und engen,
Er will uns Stuf’ um Stufe heben, weiten.
Kaum sind wir heimisch einem Lebenskreise
Und traulich eingewohnt, so droht Erschlaffen,
Nur wer bereit zu Aufbruch ist und Reise,
Mag lähmender Gewöhnung sich entraffen.

Es wird vielleicht auch noch die Todesstunde
Uns neuen Räumen jung entgegen senden,
Des Lebens Ruf an uns wird niemals enden…
Wohlan denn, Herz, nimm Abschied und gesunde!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Plaster Cast of a Living Human Being

So suppose someone has, in the strict sense, learned a system of philosophy—for example, that of Wolff. They would have in their head all the axioms, explanations, and proofs, together with the structure of the whole system, and they would be able to count everything off on their fingers. However, all they would have would be a complete historical knowledge of Wolff's philosophy. They know and judge only as much as has been given to them. If you criticise one of his definitions, they won't know how to come up with an alternative one. They have taught themselves on the basis of someone else's reason—but the capacity to imitate is not the capacity to be creative. In other words, the knowledge did not arise in them from reason. Although, objectively, the knowledge is certainly an instance of rational knowledge, in the learner as subject it is merely historical. They have understood and remembered, that is, they have learned well; but they are no more than a plaster cast of a living human being. Knowledge that is objectively rational can only originally have sprung from the reason peculiar to humans. So knowledge in the subject can also be called rational only if it is drawn from the universal sources of reason. And the same sources, namely principles, give rise to criticism and even rejection of what has been learned.
Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, B865

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Positive Difference through Public Service

I have plenty of regrets about my time in public service, starting with all the pain I caused my family, through my absences as well as my public notoriety.

[...]I loved my work in government, and I’m proud of what I did in public life, but I couldn’t do it forever.

[...]I also hope this crisis encourages Americans to reconsider the value of strong public institutions and capable public servants. When we were successful in limiting the damage, it was with the force available only to governments and central banks. And there is no viable strategy for reducing the damage of future crises that does not depend on strong government rules and oversight, and the ability to attract talented people to oversee the system. The success of our financial rescue did not solve the many problems we still face as a nation, from high levels of poverty to global warming to appalling inequality in access to quality education and health care. These challenges will require better government—not necessarily more government, but smarter policies, designed on the merits, less distorted by politics and money. It would be good for the country if we could bring a similar level of creativity and ambition and force to these challenges, along with the quintessentially American pragmatism that helped keep us out of the financial abyss.

There are lessons for the world in our mistakes as well as our successes. My hope is that they won’t have to be rediscovered in the fires of the next crisis.

[...]Public service is filled with opportunities to make a positive difference, but it comes with challenges. I did it for twenty-five years because I believed in the cause and loved the craft of economic policy. But that would not have been true without the people around me who chose to devote some or all of their careers to serving their country.
from Timothy F. Geithner, Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises

Addendum: Geithner’s private farewell to Obama and Treasury staff