The word ‘science’, which originally meant knowledge or understanding in general, gradually became narrowed to mean only physical science. But perhaps the passion for truth that impels the scientist and the passion of spirit we call religion need to be reunited.
Tolstoy oscillated between the profligate life and stable family life. Tolstoy the Resident wanted to live on his estate, write great works of art and love his family. Tolstoy the Stranger, alienated from family and society, wanted solitude, to serve pleasure when he was young and God when older.
If our humanist lives were organised around individualism, free markets, democracy and human rights, these, it is argued, are being undermined by information technology and bioscience, rendering the free individual ‘a fictitious tale concocted by an assembly of biochemical algorithms’.
In the 1930s, 426 refugees from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, most of them Jewish, found refuge in Ireland. Though some objections were raised by the authorities at accepting them, in many cases they were to become significant contributors to the Irish economy.
There was a time when it seemed that people didn’t mind what they shoved in their mouths as long as it was cheap. Then came ‘artisan food’, for which a minority would pay a premium. Might a willingness to pay for ‘artisan’ thought and analysis yet save what we used to call the quality press?
A sparkling collection of essays was published 100 years ago written by a man who had been regarded as a formidable intellectual and rising star of progressive Ireland. But Tom Kettle had died the previous year fighting in France and his book was already out of joint with the new times.
The politicisation of everyday life is most typical of totalitarian regimes but every society in every age is susceptible. To politicise life is not to elevate it but to reduce it to one dimension and vulgarise it, sharpening partisanship and inducing people to lower their intellectual standards.
Voices are central to the project of revolution, just as they are afterwards, and not only as a metaphor. If the 1916 rising was staged – and a surprisingly large number of participants in the event had a background in the theatre – no one could say that it went quite according to script.