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23 Jul

Boolean Expressions (exhibition), UCC’s Lewis Glucksmann Gallery, opens Friday, 24 July 2015 at 3pm

Mel Bochner, Study for Axion of Associations, 1973 (c) UCC, All Rights Reserved

Mel Bochner, Study for Axion of Associations, 1973
Image courtesy UCC. All rights reserved

Boolean Expressions: Contemporary art and mathematical data, a new exhibition investigating how artists have used logic and technology, at UCC’s Lewis Glucksman Gallery this Friday, July 24. It will be opened at 3pm by Lord David Putman. The exhibition, which runs until 8 November, is accompanied by an extensive programme of curated events, talks, art courses and workshops (see the brochure here.)

What is beauty? Irish philosophers have given many different answers. Berkeley suggested beauty was recognised by judgement and that a thing was “perfect in its kind when it answers the end for which it was made.” (Alciphron, p. 129). For Hutcheson, we have an innate sense that recognises beauty: where “there is Uniformity amidst Variety” (An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, I. II. § III). For Hutcheson, theorems could have beauty (I. III.), an idea that might have appealed to Boole.
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14 Jul

The Tree of Liberty

A stone bearing the image of a tree and the "United Irishmen Catechism"

Monument to the 1798 Rebellion, Maynooth.
(c) Irish Philosophy

What is that in your hand?
It is a branch.
Of what?
Of the tree of liberty.
Where did it first grow?
In America.
Where does it bloom?
In France.
Where did the seeds fall?
In Ireland.

The philosophical background of the French Revolution (up to 1799) was to be found in Montesquieu, Rousseau and Locke. Rousseau and Locke were already popular in Ireland, with the United Irishman Edward Fitzgerald educated along principles laid out by the two philosophers. William Drennan, who first formulated the idea of the United Irishmen, was a great admirer of Rousseau.

In 1789, the month before the Bastille fell, a Whig Club was founded in Dublin, and in the following year in Belfast. These Whig Clubs held commemorations of the Fall of the Bastille in 1791, the same year Thomas Paine wrote his Rights of Man in answer to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, Wolfe Tone published his An argument on behalf of the Catholics of Ireland and the United Irishmen was founded (chronology, A concise history of Ireland (1909).

There were further commemorations of Bastille Day in 1792, and in France that November Edward Fitzgerald renounced his title. France acted as inspiration for the revolt of 1798, both politically and philosophically, and (Wolfe Tone hoped) as a source of support. Ultimately it ushered in over half a century of civil insurrection in Ireland, Europe and around the world.

A last Irish link – one of the seven prisoners in the Bastille the day it fell was Irish: Chevalier James F.X. Whyte, born in Dublin in 1730.

(Images of the French Revolution here and here)

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11 Jul

A public-spirited citizen: William Bruce

William Bruce was born in 1702 in Killyleagh Co. Down and died on the 11th of July, 1755. He was the third and youngest surviving son of the Presbyterian minister Rev James Bruce and Margaret, neé Traill. His two older brothers were Presbyterian ministers, unsurprising in a line where the previous three generations had also been ministers. His first cousin was Francis Hutcheson (son of Margaret’s sister Magdalen). Hutcheson attended the dissenting academy in Killyleagh, which William’s father James was instrumental in setting up. This is probably where the two cousins first met and became close friends.

We next hear of William Bruce in Dublin, in the month of July 1725, entering into partnership with John Smith in his printing business at the sign of the Philosopher’s Head, on Blind Quay (now Lower Exchange St.) Dublin. John’s existing partner, William Smith, was moving to the Netherlands, where he would act as continental book buyer for the firm. The Smiths, both graduates of the University of Glasgow, had already published (as their first imprint) Hutcheson’s Inquiry into…ideas of beauty and virtue (1725). Future editions were published under the imprint of Smiths and W. Bruce as was Hutcheson’s  An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections (1728).
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07 Jul

Francis Hutcheson Day, 8th August 2015, Saintfield Co. Down, 11:30am-4pm

image

On the anniversary of his birth (in 1694 in Saintfield, Co. Down) and death (in 1746), Saintfield Heritage Society will spend a day celebrating Francis Hutcheson, with a tour of his birthplace, where he was educated and talks on his life and thought.

Venue: Saintfield 1st Presbyterian Church Hall
Time: 11.30 am to 4.00 pm
Tickets: £10 (including light lunch)

For more information and booking details see DiscoverSaintfield.com

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03 Jul

Saving Science from Pseudo-facts

Every scientific hypothesis is a transitory and to some extent arbitrary affair. It must never be allowed to solidify into a pseudo-fact. But why not? What harm is done? So it is time we got back to Justinian and the question Macaulay puts into his mouth. ‘What profitable truth has philosophy taught us that we should not equally have known without it? What has it taught us to do which we could not have equally done without it?’

I would like to think that Isidore replied in the true spirit of Socrates. Good sir, you mistake our purpose. We add nothing to the sum total of human cleverness and skill. Our function is otherwise. When the Delphic oracle told our father founder that he was the wisest man in Athens, he understood this to mean that he alone knew how little he understood. That still remains our function in society. To insist that people say only just as much as they really know; that when, as happens in every generation, new advances in knowledge are made, they are not taken to be more important than they really are. “

Quoted from The Danger of Words by Maurice O’Connor Drury. In this section, “Hypotheses and Philosophy”, Drury explores what he thinks the function of philosophy is and how it and science are necessary to each other.

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23 Jun

Register of Popish Priests, 1704

1704 Register of Priests as required by the Penal Laws c Marsh's Library (CC)

1704 Register of Priests as required by the Penal Laws
© Marsh’s Library (CC)

On the 23rd June 1704, An Act for registering the Popish Clergy came into force. Under this Penal law all Catholic secular priests were required to register, with bonds for their good behaviour. This page listing Dublin priests includes Cornelius Nary, who later debated tolerance for Catholics with Edward Synge, Church of Ireland Bishop of Tuam

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16 Jun

Farback, pitchblack centuries: Joyce amid the Franciscans

St Francis, from St Bonaventura's "Life" of the saint (1597) (c) Marshs Library (cc)

St Francis, from St Bonaventura’s “Life” of the saint (1597)
(c) Marshs Library (cc)

Running since October 2014, the exhibition James Joyce: Apocalypse and Exile is open on Bloomsday and beyond, to September 2015.

The exhibition explores Joyce’s connection to Marsh’s Library (he read there in October 1902), the references to Marsh’s Library and to books he read there in his writings, and his interest in the Franciscan tradition. The latter includes a connection to the Irish Colleges, specifically those of the Irish Franciscans.
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13 Jun

The world is a vision, the state is a tree

In Gaelic literature we have something that the English-speaking countries have never possessed – a great folk literature. We have in Berkeley and in Burke a philosophy on which it is possible to base the whole life of a nation. That, too, is something which England, great as she is in modern scientific thought and every kind of literature, has not, I think. The modern Irish intellect was born more than two hundred years ago when Berkeley defined in three or four sentences the mechanical philosophy of Newton, Locke, and Hobbes, the philosophy of England in his day, and I think of English up to our day, and wrote after each, “We Irish do not hold with this”, or some like sentence. Feed the immature imagination upon that old folk life, and the mature intellect upon Berkeley and the great modern idealist philosophy created by his influence, upon Burke who restored to political thought its sense of history, and Ireland is reborn, potent, armed and wise. Berkeley proved that the world was a vision, and Burke that the State was a tree, no mechanism to be pulled in pieces and put up again, but an oak tree that had grown through centuries.

Speech to Irish Literary Society, 30 Nov. 1925; in The senate speeches of W. B. Yeats, Donald R. Pearce (eds), p.171-72.

A forerunner to his celebration of the 18th century philosophers in his poetry. This outlines the intellectual tradition he wished to resuscitate, which would feed the Irish intellect as the old Gaelic tales would feed the Irish imagination.

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09 Jun

Flavour of Gaelic Origin

There is a strong flavour of his Gaelic origin in Eriugena’s thought, an unmistakable dash of that Gaelic love of enterprise, fearlessness of consequences, and joy in conflict which can find a field in philosophy and literature as well as in deeds of war and difficult feats of self-devotion. As a thinker he follows without hesitation the lead of reason, not fearing that the end of philosophy could be any other thantruth, though charges of heresy and the thunders of the Church abound. The quality of the race which have made many of its difficulties are yet the qualities which make individual Irishmen, and will yet make the Irish nation great.

Irish mathematician and writer Sophie Bryant in Celtic Ireland, p. 57 (archive.org).

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05 Jun

The Cause of Ireland is the Cause of Labour: James Connolly

James Connolly Statue, Liberty Hall, Dublin (c) William Murphy/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

James Connolly Statue, Liberty Hall, Dublin
(c) William Murphy/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

James Connolly was born in Edinburgh to Irish immigrant parents on 5th June 1868. Joining the British Army at 14, he first set foot in Ireland as a member of the Royal Scots Regiment, stationed first in Cork and then in Dublin. When his regiment returned to England in 1889 he deserted and returned to Scotland where in 1890 he married Lillie Reynolds, who he had met in Dublin. He became involved with left-wing politics in Scotland, moving to Dublin in 1896 to take up a job as paid organiser of the Dublin Socialist Club. He disbanded the Club and reorganised it as the Irish Socialist Republican Party. He founded the radical newspaper Worker’s Republic in 1888. An extended lecture tour in the US starting 1902 saw him become involved with the US Socialist Party and the “Wobblies” (Industrial Workers of the World). He returned to Dublin in 1910, becoming national organiser for the Socialist Party of Ireland, and moved to Belfast to organise the newly founded Irish Transport and General Workers Union, ITGWU1.
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