Friday, 29 May 2015

A Reminiscence

It must have been on Monday 9th October 1978. The first thing our professor told us in his first lecture on 'the neurological basis of human behaviour' was that "reality was a state of mind brought about by low blood alcohol concentrations". He wasn't the first to say something like this; it is borrowed - and adapted somewhat - from N.F. Simpson. I tracked down the original quotation to him when I heard it used in an obituary after his death in 2011. The line appears in A Resounding Tinkle. (Reference can be found to it in Martin Esslin's 'The Theatre of the Absurd'.)

I suspect that everybody thought prof. very witty to come out with such an idea. He was somebody in whom we were all in awe. Few of us thought then that he might have 'borrowed' it from elsewhere. In lectures, he rarely, if ever, cited his sources. Once, in a dissecting class, a rather odd pelvic structure was discovered. The lecturer in charge hadn't seen anything like it before and asked somebody to go and get prof. to see if he knew what it was - adding somewhat wryly that even if he didn't know he would still come out with something that sounded definitive.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Giant Parisian Sundial

Most recognise the star shape of this well-known Parisian landmark - hence Place de l'Étoile - but what about its sundial qualities? Do any of those working in the area use the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe to tell the time?

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Epictetus - 2

From: The Golden Sayings of Epictetus (translated by Hastings Crossley) - from Project Gutenberg.

And to this I reply:-- "Friends, wait for God. When He gives the signal, and releases you from this service, then depart to Him. But for the present, endure to dwell in the place wherein He hath assigned you your post. Short indeed is the time of your habitation therein, and easy to those that are minded. What tyrant, what robber, what tribunals have any terrors for those who thus esteem the body and all that belong to it as of no account? Stay; depart not rashly hence!"

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Professor Socrates

As previously noted, Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) had a dim view of professors and professorial chairs. Perhaps the same might have applied to Socrates (470/469-399 BC), had there been such things as professors in his day. I cannot see how he could ever have accepted a professorial chair given that his wisdom and insight was such as to reveal his relative ignorance in the face of the sum of all things. By this token, no one who has genuinely made this humbling realisation (and is not also a hypocrite) could accept such a position. So, there is clearly something else at play in the 'professorial mind' - or, at least, those desirous of the title. (Perhaps, after the position is attained that mind changes?)