Ballet on the Sofa: Don Quixote

don-quixoteBased on two chapters from the 17th century Spanish novel of the same name by Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote was first performed in Moscow by the Ballet of the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre in December 1869. It was choreographed by Marius Petipa (1818-1910) to a score by Ludwig Minkus (1826-1917), but subsequently heavily revised and is now performed along the same lines as a version staged by Alexander Gorsky (1871-1924) in 1900. Continue reading “Ballet on the Sofa: Don Quixote”

Paintings You Should Know: Raphael’s ‘The School of Athens’, 1509-1511

With my nascent interest in the world of philosophy now seemed like the perfect time to write about the Renaissance masterpiece which is The School of Athens. The painting is a fresco, part of a series commissioned for the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. Regarded as Raphael’s masterpiece, it captures the Renaissance fascination with the philosophy of the Classical (ancient Greek and Roman) world.

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Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Raphael’s ‘The School of Athens’, 1509-1511”

Five Books About Family

My recent visit to my family has brought to the front of my mind just how important family is, but while family life plays a significant role in much of children’s literature it is often less prominent in adult literature, no doubt reflecting the greater variety of influences and situations in adult life. But there is some literature which places family life front and centre, and here’s my list of five of the best. Continue reading “Five Books About Family”

I’m Back

lopdell-houseIt’s been a busy few weeks, but I’m finally back in a space where I feel like I have time to start blogging again.

I won’t go into everything that’s been going on, except to say that it’s all good, positive stuff, just stuff that’s kept me too busy to a) sit down and type, or b) do much that was worth typing about, at least in the context of The Culture Project. Continue reading “I’m Back”

Why I Want to Know More About Philosophy

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If you’ve glanced through my most recent reading list you will have noticed that it includes a book called ‘The Story of Philosophy’. Philosophy is a subject about which I know very little, but just enough to know that I want to know more.

As I understand it, philosophy at its heart represents a particular way of looking at and understanding the world, one which is focussed primarily on the use of human reason. It asks questions such as ‘how can we know what we know?’ ‘What is good? What is right? What is just?’ ‘How can we establish the truth of a statement?’, and seeks to answer them not through appeal to divine revelation, nor through observation and experimentation, but rather through discussion and reflection.

At a time when radicals on both sides are keen to portray a false dichotomy between religion and science, and to stoke the fires of conflict which such dichotomies all too easily produce, I see philosophy as having a valuable contribution to make in bridging the emerging gulf between those who feel compelled to choose one side or the other.

In this I must freely acknowledge my bias. I am a Christian, a sincere believer that Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish teacher who lived two thousand years ago, was no ordinary man but was rather, in some mysterious way, both truly God and truly Human, and begotten by the one true God who made heaven and earth, all that is, and all that ever more shall be.

We offer thanks and praise to God… for science and discoveries, for our life together, for Aotearoa, New Zealand.

– Eucharistic Liturgy of Thanksgiving and Praise, from ‘A New Zealand Prayer Book’

The claims of my religion are rooted in history but they contain much which can never be historically verified. Does God exist? Was Jesus truly divine? Was he a madman, a conman, or a myth? Are the things he taught and did relevant to us today? If so, how? Reasoned arguments can be made both for and against all of these positions, but in the twenty-first century reasoned arguments can be few and far between.

But my interest in philosophy is not primarily focussed on defending (or testing) my faith. I am genuinely curious to know what the great thinkers of history have thought about, and how, and whether and how those ways of thinking might be relevant for my life. And so, philosophy.